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John van der Veen

  • Blog Summary for May 2014

    Posted on June 2, 2014 by Family Christian

    Here are the most popular blog posts as read by you. Thank you for following us!

    Shane Harper on Living Out the Gospel

    Shane Harper established himself as an artist with a quadruple threat—singer, actor, dancer, and songwriter. He began working as a professional dancer in the entertainment industry when he was just 13, appearing as a principal dancer in High School Musical 2, and in Nickelodeon's show, "Dance on Sunset".

    Shane transitioned easily into acting, and is recurring on the hit Disney Channel show, "Good Luck Charlie", for all 4 seasons. He guest starred on "Wizards of Waverly Place", and "So Random". He also guest starred in a 4 episode arc for the scripted MTV series, "Awkward."

    As an actor in film, Shane worked with Rob Reiner, in a supporting role for the movie, FLIPPED. He also had a small featured role in the Bollywood film, MY NAME IS KHAN.

    Shane has a principal role in the feature film, GOD'S NOT DEAD and recently, I sat down with him to talk about faith, Hollywood, books music and coffee.

    Read the full interview here.

    Michael W. Smith - Behind the New Album

    “Sometimes you’ve just got to shake things up,” Michael W. Smith says with a smile. After selling more than 15 million albums, scoring 28 No. 1 hits, earning three GRAMMYs and more than 40 Dove Awards, no one would blame the Christian music icon if he decided to coast just a little bit, but that’s just not in his nature.

    On Sovereign, Michael’s first worship album since 2008 and his first project since signing with Capitol Christian Music Group in 2013, he deliberately steps into a new creative chapter to craft a vibrant collection of vertically focused songs with a fresh sense of musical innovation.

    Read the full interview here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Nick took some time out of his busy schedule to do a little Q&A with us. Read them here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    Read the full interview here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Jon White and Cole Walowac have parlayed a long-term friendship and shared passion for music into one of the hottest careers in the industry. Despite their young age, the duo’s
    history is a lengthy one. “We were in the nursery in the same church,” Jon says. “We moved away to Massachusetts for a few years, Cole and I met back up in the same middle school and we started playing in the youth group band. Cole would play drums and I would sing and that’s how we started making music.”

    Read the full q&a here.

    All or Nothing with Mike from MIKESCHAIR

    The band may have been formed in a dorm room with a group of college friends, but it has since become a music ministry that has touched peoples hearts and minds all over the globe.

    Here is Mike Grayson, the lead singer of Mikeschair, speaking about how he got involved with music, his songwriting process, and explaining some of the tracks from the latest album, All or Nothing.

    Read the full interview here.

    Matt Maher. On Being Christian.

    Matt Maher's newest album, All The People Said Amen," fuses the popularity of his vibrant live show with several new studio cuts, offering fans an assortment of writing and performance styles.

    “This project,” offers Maher, “is a real collage of who I am musically. You’ll hear intimate worship songs, anthemic praise tunes often sung and shouted aloud together in unison, and celebratory songs that inspire the whole church.”

    I chatted with Matt on cold winter day.  What follows is a conversation on who Matt is, what he hopes to accomplish and how he just wants to sing about Jesus.

    Read the full interview here.

    Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.

    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    There is a vulnerable side to this young lady. And if you didn't know it already, you will be able to hear it by reading the interview below. Franny came to our corporate Christmas party to bring encouragement and holiday greetings. After I sat down with her, I was reminded again about her passion.

    Read the full interview here.

    Kari Jobe - Pioneering New Roads in Worship

    Dictionary.com gives the definition of pioneer in the following ways
    1. a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.
    2. one who is first or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress.
    3. one of a group of foot soldiers detailed to make roads.

    For more than 15 years, well-respected worship leader Kari Jobe has been using her gifts to lead people into the presence of God. When she began leading worship at age 13, she never imagined she would be nominated for a GRAMMY®, win a Dove Award or be praised by the New York Times. She only knew she had a heart for broken people and a deep desire to lead them to the cross.

    Pioneer? This may be the word that describes who Kari is and what she hopes to do as an artist.

    I sat down with Kari and asked about her background. Where she came from, how she found Jesus and where is she going. Read the full interview here.

    The Life, Legacy and Music of Bill Gaither

    The pages of history have been written by ordinary people who had something extraordinary to say with their lives. Bill Gaither is just such an individual… an Indiana-born kid with an insatiable love for music who grew to become an industry leader who would change the course of gospel music history through the songs he has written and through his influence as a mentor for other artists.An avid fan of gospel quartets throughout his childhood, Bill founded his first group, The Bill Gaither Trio, in 1956, while he was a college student. He began teaching English in 1959 because his musical aspirations couldn’t support him full-time… yet. In 1962, Bill did one of the best things he has ever done. He married Gloria Sickal, who became the best writing partner Bill could have found anywhere. The couple spent the first five years of their married life juggling full-time teaching jobs, writing, singing, recording and publishing until music became their full-time career in 1967.

    Read the full interview here.


    This post was posted in Music, Books, Interviews, John van der Veen, Dan Hubka and was tagged with Featured, Lecrae, Kari Jobe, Francesca Battistelli, Nick Vujicic, Michael W. Smith, Capital Kings, Bill Gaither, Matt Maher, Shane Harper, MIKESCHAIR

  • Below Paradise - an interview with Tedashii

    Posted on June 2, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Reach Records artist Tedashii has been a busy man since we heard from him last. Following the 2011 release of Blacklight, which debuted at No. 2 on the iTunes hip-hop chart, he’s had a heavy touring schedule that included his own concert series, The Unashamed Tour and The Rock and Worship Roadshow with MercyMe and Jeremy Camp, where he had the distinction of being the only hip-hop act. Then there was that guest spot on Lecrae’s Grammy-winning album Gravity, and Tedashii’s own hit track “Dum Dum” was featured on the popular TV show So You Think You Can Dance. And did we mention he’s also the host of his own weekly radio show, Serium, heard on NGEN Radio?

    Despite his demanding schedule, Tedashii planned to return to the studio shortly after he came off the road in March of 2013. But before he could lay down a single track, tragedy struck. Tedashii’s one-year-old son passed away suddenly, and the world stopped. There was no recording, no touring, just months of family time, counseling, and trying to find a new normal. While the healing continued, eventually, he knew he needed to get back to work. That interaction with people – both from the stage and before and after shows – is what Tedashii loves to do. So by June 2013 he began to ease back into performing, which he found to be therapeutic.

    I sat down with Tedashii for a one on one chat. What follows is a that conversation. A conversation about loss. About life. About living Below Paradise.

    John:               I'm wondering Tedashii if you could just bring us a little bit back in time and maybe talk a little bit about how you came to know Jesus as your savior and how that relationship more or less started with you.

    Tedashii:       I would be glad to do that. I graduated high school and got to go to this really small school, somebody might have heard of it, it’s called Baylor University. I got to go to Baylor, and when I got there I had a plan. My plan was to be the most popular and the most well-known student that school had ever seen from a party scene and from an academic scene. I was ready to hit the world by storm. Man, I had a lot of dreams, ambition, and aspirations.

    In the second month of my first semester this guy walked up to me on campus, never met him before, had seen him around but never met him, and it’s hot, and so on I'm ready to get into some AC, the wind isn't blowing it all, it’s really dry, it’s in Central Texas, so there's a lot of hills and I'm just tired. I just want to go in and not be bothered.

    This guy walks up and he says, “Hey, I heard the way that you interacted with your buddies, and I heard some of the jokes you guys told, and just how you carried yourself, I think that the Bible would call this sin.” He then proceeded to share the gospel with me. Told me I needed the Savior, the only savior was Jesus and I needed to be saved. I didn't know him from at all. I got super offended, pushed him, literally put my hands on him and showed him away from me and walked off upset, because here was this guy judging me.

    But for most of my life everybody told me I was a good guy, I was a good kid. Here was this one guy saying the opposite of everybody else, so of course I easily dismissed him. But in the days to follow I got injured, I lost my scholarship, and I was on my way home. My world was crumbling, it was crashing down.

    Literally as I'm hanging up the phone with my high school girlfriend, because she was breaking up with me, this guy walks by and sees me and he says, “Man, you look like you need to talk to somebody.” I was so frustrated that it was him, but I did, I needed to talk to somebody. He just started sharing the gospel with me again. This time I heard him, I understood it, and on that campus, in the middle of all that heat I just got on my knees and cried out for Jesus man.

    John:               So it was the same guy?

    Tedashii:       Same guy, same exact guy. We are friends to this day. He was the best man at my wedding and, man, he’s just a dear, dear brother in the Lord man.

    John:               That's pretty incredible man. Just that whole idea of confronting someone in their sin and presenting them with the gospel, I think the world might be a better place if we all ended up doing a little more of that.

    Tedashii:       Yes, very much so.

    John:               At what point, I mean, obviously you have a talent, obviously you are the artist, I am not. Your talent is that you do hip hop and you do it incredibly well.

    Tedashii:       Thank you man.

    John:               Absolutely. My question is was hip hop part of who you were before you were a Christian? Did it come later in life? I mean how did you end up moving into that realm?

    Tedashii:       Hip hop was definitely later in life. I grew up in a home. My mom was … I don’t think my mom was a believer at the time, but she was really religious. We grew up in the Bible Belt and so church is what you did. We were not allowed to do certain things because the preacher called it sin, so one of those things was hip hop. Hip hop wasn’t in my home. I couldn't watch videos. When everybody else saw videos, I didn’t know what they were talking about. I couldn’t listen to the radio station. Well, hip hop stations. We could listen to her music all day long, but couldn’t listen to my music.

    But my mom was a very musical person. She sang in the choir. She would sing around the city at different events. Then she also played a lot of soul and blues music, every now and again some jazz, but the weird one is country. She’d always play country too. I just got influenced by music and a lot of it at an early age. When I got to an age that I could … Well, I was about to say when I got to an age I could listen to hip hop, really when I got to an age that I could sneak hip hop in and not get caught, I listened to it all the time.

    But really the guy that led me to Christ and Baylor was the same guy who first encouraged me to write a rap song. He said, “Man, you're always listening to hip hop. You like to seat and freestyle and make up rhymes. Why don’t you write a song down?” I tried it. He talked me into doing it at a talent show and it was horrible. I got fourth-place on five people and it was really embarrassing then so I vowed never to do that again.

    But years later, really, really later I met Lecrae and I met Trip Lee and some other guys and these guys encouraged me to try it again. They thought I was good at it, they thought there was a gift there, some talent, and lo and behold they were right. The Lord was opening that door and he's continued to open it.

    John:               That is for sure, and the world has certainly been a better place ever since.

    Tedashii:       Praise the Lord.

    John:               Your new record, Below Paradise, is now available. Why don’t you talk a little bit about it. What’s the catalyst behind it?

    Tedashii:       Below Paradise is a very personal album, very, very near and dear to my heart. I've had three previous albums and I tell people I put my heart on my albums. But this one in particular I put my soul on it. I gave literally everything I had. The catalyst behind it was me trying to communicate what my life was like in 2013 leading up to 2014, just everything that I went through from the loss of my son, to my journey as a guy trying to reconcile what it feels like to live in a harsh world with a loving God, and wanting to be able to communicate that to people who have also maybe gone through something similar, but also to people who may not.

    There are a lot of people when I talk to them, they say, “Man, I can’t imagine.” Then their very next statement is, “I don't know what I would do.” My encouragement to them is I know what you would do. If you love God like you say you love God, you would wrestle to continue to love Him and by His grace He would keep you. I feel like that's my story. The Lord has allowed me room to wrestle within His grace up but He's kept me.

    John:               Tedashii, I mean, just hearing obviously the trials that God put you through and how that has shaped your life, not just this record, but obviously your life, if God puts me through something, that's stored here, in my heart. But you have chosen to go one step further. You’ve chosen to literally open your heart and to allow people to see it.

    As you've already referenced, you said your previous records have always been a personal statement about who Tedashii is, what you stand for, and everything like that. But this one, I mean you are being very vulnerable in this fact that you are literally showing the world your heart. There's a sense of brokenness and also a sense of restoration. How do you …? What is it like to be that personal with such a wide audience? What's the goal there and what's that like?

    Tedashii:       Good question. The goal for me was to be able to trust God enough that my open honesty and vulnerability would in some way encourage people who may have gone through this or are feeling pain and suffering in some way, my goal is to bring awareness. I think a lot of people fight to live in this bubble where everything seems to be good and works out good and there's always a happy ending. In reality there's just a harsh world all around us.

    I don't necessarily want awareness for their lives personally. That's good. That's one thing. But be aware of the world around you so much so that you start to ask the question, how I need to engage it. After this moment, that's what I asked myself. I went on this journey to write this album as a part of my responsibility on how I am going to engage a harsh world.

    Now there's good in this world. I mean I'm not at all blind to that. God is a good God himself. There are good things. He gives good gifts to His children. But within this world there's a harshness and some of it is unanswered. I don't think I’m trying to provide an answer as much as I am begging people to walk with me in awareness so that we can push back the darkness.

    John:               That is the goal, right? That's what we're all called to do.

    Tedashii:       Yeah.

    John:               I think that's more or less Kingdom living.

    Tedashii:       Yeah, amen.

    John:               Going back to the record Tedashii you have guest artists that show up on the record with you. You want to name some of those?

    Tedashii:       I do man, I'm excited. I've been a fan of this young lady by the name of Britt Nicole.

    John:               Awesome.

    Tedashii:       She has a phenomenal voice. I wanted to do something, when I first spoke with her and asked her if she’d be willing to be on the album she said, “Of course.” I was super excited. My plan was to do a song similar to the songs she normally does. But I had this random idea to put her on a song opposite of everything anyone would expect from her, and let her shine in that way. I put her on this song called Dark Days, Darker Nights which chronicles my pain, initially after feeling this loss and this weight of it. She did an amazing job. I'm so appreciative of her.

    Another guy, another person in the album is this guy named David Crowder. I know some people know who he is. David Crowder, he’s just a cool dude who every time I saw him he was down to earth and willing to engage and interact. To me, I describe him as a worship leader with stadium, with a stadium sound.

    There are some guys, they lead worship. It's better for that sitting to be a smaller close-knit sitting, but he has the ability to engage this stadium size crowd and still draw them in to want to call out to Christ. I wanted him on a track.

    John:               I have a question regarding Crowder. When you guys were basically, I'm not sure if you actually recorded the vocals on the same day or not, but did he require you to wear a trucker hat when you were working on the song that he was involved in?

    Tedashii:       No, I wanted that brother to wear a flat bill. I was like, “You need to switch it up bro, switch it up. Let's change it. Let’s some do something totally different.” Of course he didn’t. He was like, “I’m good man. I’m good.”

    John:               It is what it is.

    Tedashii:       But he did, he had a trucker hat on, his glasses, and I want to say he had on a flannel shirt and it was hot. But I don’t get it, I don't know why he had that on. It’s kind of hot outside. But he came in there and he did his job. It was amazing. He killed it. I'm appreciative of that. He’s on a song called … Wow, I just forgot the song talking about it. That's hilarious. Angels and Demons, he's on a song called Angels and Demons. Then of course the label mates on the album, I got a single out now with Lecrae and Trip Lee called Nothing I Can’t Do. So yeah, I'm excited about it man.

    John:               That's great. Obviously I read up a little bit about you Tedashii in preparing for this conversation. Don't be alarmed by what I'm going to ask you. But I know that you are not as a fan of hip hop, but there so there's a few other forms of music that you truly enjoy doing. In fact maybe sometimes on a Sunday morning someone may find you … where?

    Tedashii:       At church.

    John:               I thought I was reading somewhere that may be on occasion you've helped in a worship setting where you’re a vocalist, but maybe I'm wrong.

    Tedashii:       You had me nervous because I was like, “What secret info has he found out. What he knows? What’s happening?” No, that’s good. I have on occasion joined in with the worship team and sang the back background vocals. I'm not necessarily just background, I tend to be further, further back because I carry a tune very lowly, and so not all the time does a baritone get the solo, so I'm okay with that.

    Then sometimes I’ll through in a verse. We go to the church called The Village Church were a guy named Matt Chandler is the pastor. Our campus is super diverse and has a lot of different cultures. We try to implement a lot of different styles of worship. Actually, I try to serve when I can man. But I'm a secret closet fan of a lot worship guys like, man, I don’t know if have heard of Shane and Shane before, but I am a super fan of Shane and Shane. I think those dudes are amazing. They say they don't, but I’m like, “Not only do you have perfect pitch. You have perfect harmony. It’s like every time, live or on the album.” Anyway, but I worship bro, I am a fan.

    John:               I totally agree. I think there are songs … Record is one of my favorites.

    Tedashii:       Yes, yes.

    John:               Let’s see. So besides music, I'm sorry if I was making you a little nervous there.

    Tedashii:       I was a little nervous. I was like, “What is he about to say,” because everybody teases because I'm a fan of country music. I like country music.

    John:               Well, I mean you are from Texas so it's not that big of a deal.

    Tedashii:       Here we go, good.

    John:               So anything beyond music? Is there any other passion that you really enjoy doing?

    Tedashii:       Well I do a weekly radio show called Serium. It’s a word I made up. It’s s-e-r-i-u-m, but Serium is a weekly hip hop show that airs every Saturday night at eight pm Central on NGEN radio, the letter N, the letter G, the letter E, the letter N, ngenradio.com. Anyone who lives in the Houston area can listen to it. There's call letters for you to find that you can get on FM station. Check it out. It's a sister company of KSBJ. Man, it's been amazing to do that. l love doing radio, I love playing around vocally with what I can do and then bring in people, all these different types of songs that are amazing within what we're doing right now as far as hip hop goes.

    I love doing theater. I consider myself a thespian to a certain extent. I love doing that. At the end of the day I see myself as a communicator. So any way that I can, any medium, any art form that I can use to communicate the truths of the Lord and scripture and my passion, then I'm going to do it. I don’t know, I may do a spoken word piece one day, or I may turnaround and try to write a short story. I don't know, it just depends, but anything artistically that I can use I'll try to do it.

    John:               Tedashii thank you very much for taking the time to chat with me today. I really appreciate it.

    Tedashii:       Thank you man.

    Heaven has become more real, and there’s a new urgency to get there. It’s an important message he feels compelled to share. This newfound purpose doesn't make the pain worth it or lessen the ache of loss, but it's a calling he’s embracing. As he moves forward in his life and with this new album, he’s more determined than ever to prove himself faithful while he’s still here, Below Paradise.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Lecrae, David Crowder, Tedashii, Britt Nicole, MercyMe, Jeremy Camp

  • All or Nothing with Mike from Mikeschair

    Posted on May 7, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    The band may have been formed in a dorm room with a group of college friends, but it has since become a music ministry that has touched peoples hearts and minds all over the globe.

    Here is Mike Grayson, the lead singer of Mikeschair, speaking about how he got involved with music, his songwriting process, and explaining some of the tracks from the latest album, All or Nothing.

    John: Well hey, Mike. How are you, sir?

    Mike: Good, how are you?

    John: I’m doing very well. Thank you so much for calling, man, I really appreciate it.

    Mike: Yeah, thanks for having me.

    John: Mike, I’m wondering if you could start off by giving us a little bit of background information. What made you decide to get into music in general and then into Christian music specifically?

    Mike: Going way back I’ve always been really, really, really drawn to music. When I was really little I was in a boy choir where it was like whoever could sing the highest was the coolest. It started out there but then I just desperately wanted to play an instrument. For a long time I thought it was going to be the saxophone, like that was going to be my jam, but in my middle school, they actually offered guitar in band. That’s where I learned how to read music, by playing guitar back in fifth grade. From the very first moment I had a guitar, I learned one chord, which was E, and I learned you could move it around the neck and it sounded good in different places, and I started writing music.

    I’ve never really been one of those people who wanted to be a guitar god. From the very beginning, it’s always been about writing songs. I actually, in fifth grade, started writing music.  I wrote some songs and recorded them so they were on a cassette tape. I gave them to my middle school Bible study leader who happened to be the mother of Dan Haseltine, who is the lead singer of Jars of Clay. She ended up playing it for Dan and then I don’t know what Dan heard in those songs back then, but he brought me up to Nashville the summer before eighth grade.

    I ended up recording three songs, which Dan produced, and some of the Jars of Clay guys played on the recordings. As you can imagine, that blew my mind. I was so young and I think Hanson was really big at the time, so that might have played a part in it. I just remember leaving Nashville being that young and feeling like I was leaving home. It was very weird. Then for the rest of middle school and high school, I wrote songs and sent them to Dan or whoever and I just really remember thinking that was my moment.

    I thought [becoming an artist] was going to happen right then and after years of that not happening, I got to the point right before I went to college where I thought, You know, I don’t really want to do the artist thing. I’d been leading worship in my youth group and just really had a heart for worship. I came to Belmont University, which is the only school I applied to there in Nashville, and I really just wanted to be a worship leader. Then, funny enough, in the first two weeks of my freshman year, Mikeschair formed and I’ve been an artist ever since. That was ten years ago now.

    John: When you talk about your journey, do you continue to write about that? You mentioned that you are a song writer. Would you consider yourself to be a song writer first and then a musician? Or a musician first and then a song writer?

    Mike: I was definitely a song writer first and then, I mean, I obviously loved playing guitar. I could play some piano but there are people who are far better than me when it comes to that. My heart leans toward writing music first.

    John: When you talk about your story and how God led you from what you were doing into Mikeschair, you continue to weave that story in and out of your songs. Your new record is called All or Nothing. Are there songs that deal with that specifically?

    Mike: I think maybe not specifically but I do think throughout my entire journey, the Lord has been teaching me about his timing and about the fact that we can’t really look to people to make our dreams come true. One of the things I feel like I’ve learned is that the Lord really is ultimately the only One who sees that through and sometimes he uses people, but the question is, where are we putting our hope?

    There’s a song on the new record called “I Can Wait,” and it deals specifically with the fact that I still struggle, even with God proving himself faithful time and time again in my life. I still deal with the whole, “God, I think my timing is better” mentality. I say, “If the events would only happen in this order, wouldn’t that be better, God?” When I write, it’s not necessarily about how my life actually looks, but rather how I want my life to look. They’re prayers; they’re statements of faith so that when I sing them it’s instilled in my heart. “God, okay, I can wait. You’re not a second late; you’ve proven that before so let me believe that now.”

    John: When you go through the process of writing a song, are you writing them because there is something that you are going through? In other words, is the song writing for you or do you have a particular audience in mind?

    Mike: It’s definitely both. This is our third studio album, so at this point we’ve spent a lot of years on the road. I’ve met a ton of amazing people and heard a lot of incredible stories. I definitely think that when I sit down to write there is an audience in mind now. There are actual faces that I can see when I write. And I definitely think, What do I want to say when I’m on stage at this point? Or, What are the words that I want to express to people? At the same time, on this record there are a lot of personal songs specifically for me. One of those songs is called “People Like Me.”

    That song deals specifically with my family and our struggle with addiction, and how my immediate family didn’t escape that. That song is intensely personal yet I think at this point when it comes to writing, I’ll write for myself knowing that I’ve been through enough scenarios now where people will come up and say, “Man, it’s almost as if you took the words out of my mouth.” I know that even though I’m writing something for myself, there are a lot of other people who feel the same way and need to know they’re not alone in their struggles. In that regard, it’s almost as if there’s a crowd of people in the room with me every time I write.

    John: Is it ever intimidating?

    Mike: Yeah, for sure. I’ve also gotten to the point now where I don’t want to mess it up. I want every lyric to be honest. I don’t want things to come across as cliché or fake. I always try to be as honest as I can, and that can be hard sometimes in Christian music because we tend to want to focus on the joy aspect of being a believer. But in my life, I’ve found that sometimes I focus on the difficulties of being a believer and just the hardships of what it means. Songs like “Let the Waters Rise,” “Someone Worth Dying For” and “People Like Me” lend themselves toward what it means to be a believer in a world that’s broken.

    Yet, on this record I made a conscious choice not to throw joy to the wayside. There are songs like “Loved By You” and “This is Our Moment,” which really speak to the joys of what it means to be a believer and being saved by grace. I’m trying to be more well rounded I guess when it comes to the songs that we’re singing.

    John: The title track “All or Nothing” says, “I wanna lose myself in grace’s ocean / Find my heart in your hands / Every piece I give it over / Nothing less, you have everything I am.” What’s behind those lyrics?

    Mike: “All or Nothing” was the first song that I wrote for this record and it really set the tone for the entire album. For our previous records we kind of wrote songs and then looked back and realized there was a theme throughout the process. This record, though, was the first time I actually set out with a theme in mind. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to write an album that really spoke to the fact that there are so many things in the world dying for our attention. A lot of things are very loud about it, and I thought, Why can’t Jesus be the thing that is loud, the thing that is bold?

    It goes on to say, “I’m done wasting time … I wanna shine a light like the skyline.” It’s saying I want to be bold, I want to be all out, I want to be all in for Jesus. This song was the first thing that I came to the table with. It just set the tone for the entire thing. We start the record with “All or Nothing” and then the very last song is a song called “All to Jesus, I Surrender All.” That’s the prayer, that by the end of this record, people will be willing to join the ranks of those who say, “Yes, I’m all in. I found where my hope is, where my joy lies, and it’s in Jesus, and because of that I’m ready to surrender all.”

    John: Mike, I think to some extent because of the framework at least of that song and the rest of this record, you are really calling out the casual approach to Christianity. Do you think the church here in the west is suffering because of this lackadaisical attitude of we go to church once in a while, or we participate in the holidays of the church or we have this, in a sense, Christ-less Christianity? Do you see that going on?

    Mike: Yeah, I think I used to a couple years ago. I dealt with the “am I preaching to the choir” thing. I’ve been able to go out of the country multiple times now, and I think that really awakens the thing inside of me that’s like man, we are so blessed and we have such an opportunity to drastically change the world. I feel like every night when we do a show there’s this thing in me, I think it’s this warrior nature almost, that wants to shake people up and be like guys, do you realize what we have? Do you realize what we’ve been given in Christ?

    Yet most of us, including myself, struggle with this. Like I said, this record is a challenge to me as well, to stop wasting time and stop living a life that’s not to the fullest. What I found is that when we live life to the fullest, that means living life for Jesus, but what does that look like? What does it look like to wake up every day and say, “I want today to be all or nothing?” If you ask yourself that question, how would your day look different? That’s what I’ve been trying to figure out. Yes, I do feel that. I do feel the sense of comfort that we all have and that we all enjoy, and yet how can we use that to further the kingdom? How can we use the things we’ve been blessed with to make a difference in a world that is desperate for truth?

    John: Mike, you’ve graced the Family Christian version of the record with a couple exclusive bonus tracks, including “Let the Waters Rise” and “Someone Worth Dying For,” and we are certainly grateful for those. I know that you guys have had guests on your previous albums, but do you have any special guests joining you guys on this one?

    Mike: Yes, Matthew West actually joins us on “People Like Me” which is so awesome. We toured with Matthew two years ago and just love him. He is the real deal and he was so gracious, excited and willing to join us on this album, and I’ve always wanted to do a duet with a guy like Matthew. That song is really special for a number of reasons, but to have him on it makes it that much more special; that’s a really cool moment on the record.

    John: Awesome. Mike, are you a book reader?

    Mike: I would like to think that I am, but if you could see the list of books I’ve started and not finished, I think I would shame actual book readers by calling myself a book reader. I like to start them, does that count? No, my wife is a book reader, though, so I feel like I definitely get a lot from her. But I feel like I would be lying if I said that I was a legit book reader.

    John: Well, we won’t hold anything against you.

    Mike: Thanks.

    John: Are you a coffee drinker?

    Mike: This is embarrassing, I’m not.

    John: That’s not embarrassing.

    Mike: That’s the other thing. I feel like in order to be taken seriously as an artist you have to be this coffee connoisseur and I’m just not. I never have been, but I’m attempting to. My wife is a huge coffee drinker so I think it’s her mission in life to make me a coffee drinker.

    John: I always thought that if you put enough cream and sugar in the coffee then anybody could be a coffee drinker.

    Mike: Yeah it’s true. I love mochas, but I feel like that doesn’t count.

    John: Isn’t that like the wimpy version of coffee?

    Mike: Yeah, it’s just got a lot of chocolate in it or something like that.

    John: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. According to today’s standards I think you are a coffee drinker if you drink mochas.

    Mike: Yes, okay. I’m going to start saying I’m a coffee drinker then.

    John: There you go. You can wear a name tag even, if you wanted to.

    Mike: I'll take it.

    John: Good, awesome. Mike, thank you man. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.

    Mike: Awesome. Thanks man, it means a lot.

    John: My pleasure. God bless you, brother.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, MIKESCHAIR, Mike Grayson

  • David Lomas - On a Rescue Mission

    Posted on March 24, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    What is a rescue mission? I mean really. Not to sound dramatic on this, but isn't the call of missions placed on all followers of Jesus? Now if that is true, then isn't a work of mission really a work of rescuing? There is a lost world outside and Jesus has commissioned us to go after it with life and joy - to rescue people from the jaws of death, the devil and hell itself.

    David Lomas believes that to be true. He heard the word of the Lord to go, and that is exactly what he did. He went. David didn't go to a Bible-belt community where it may be a bit easier to teach and preach. No. He went to one of this countries most ungodly cities.

    David serves as the lead pastor at Reality in San Francisco, a church community that started in 2010 in the Castro District. According to Wikipedia, "the Castro remains one of the most prominent symbols of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender activism and events." He lives, with his wife Ashley, in one of the most un-churched cities in the nation, but one that is bursting with new life and grace of God. The Reality family of churches is a growing movement committed to relational church planting and serving the broader body of Christ.

    I had to talk with this man. I wanted to hear his story and hear from him about what God was doing. Let me say this - The Gospel is alive in the Castro District and Jesus continues to change people into the likeness of Himself!

    John:               David, I'm wondering before with get started and talk about your book that just came out, would you be willing to give us a little bit of background information? Who is David Lomas, where did you came from, how you got into the position that you are now, as both a pastor and as a author.

    David:             Yeah, so I was born and raised in the central valley of California, so right now, I live in San Francisco. About 3, 4 hours south of here, almost to LA, is a little town right in the middle of California, called Bakersfield. Born and raised there. Didn't grow up in a Christian home at all. Was invited to church several times growing up. I always said that it was against my religion to go to church. Didn't really have a religion but it didn't involve church.

    I reluctantly went one time when I was like in 6th grade, and it was a very pentecostal church, and I was scared to death. I never went back to church, and then my freshman year of high school, a friend of mine started playing in a worship band at his church, and he was in a band that I would go and watch, like where I can get in as a freshman in high school, like pizza places and stuff like that. He invited me to church and said, "My band is playing at church," and I thought that was weird, but I went, and it was pretty fun.

    Then, right around I think my junior year of high school ... I didn't really go back that much. Junior of high school, I made a decision, I don't even know what it was. It might have been growing up kind of marginally Catholic, so it might have been those Catholic roots, but I'm like, okay, no matter what happens, when I wake up on Sunday morning from partying or whatever, I'm going to go to church. I don't even know why I did that. I think it was God just calling me, but I had no idea at the time why I was doing this.

    I would wake up random places on Sunday morning from partying all Saturday night, and I would wake up everyone to go to church. Like, "Hey, church starts at 10:30. It's 10:00. Everybody, wake up and let's get to church." I was like an evangelist before I was even saved. I'm like, "Let's get to church and there's free coffee and donuts there, so let's sober up." We'd get there, and we'd listen to the teaching, and I don't know, I just would go.

    I befriended a youth pastor there, and they invited me to a Wednesday night church one time, and I thought that was the strangest thing. I'm like, "You're going to church twice in a week? That's absurd. I mean, once is enough. What are you doing?" We were in a room, Wednesday night Bible study youth group. We were going around, sharing like, "When did you come into a personal relationship with Christ?" That was the question that everyone had to answer. I mean, I had no idea how to answer that question. I didn't even know that was a thing.

    I turned to my friend who invited me years ago. I'm like, "Hey," his name was Daniel, "Daniel, what do I say? Like, when it gets to my turn, what do I say?" He goes, "Don't worry. Just say, you don't know Jesus on that level yet," and I'm like, "Oh, that's a good one. I'm going to use that one."

    My turn and the youth pastor just says, "Dave, when did you come into a personal relationship with Jesus?" I go, "Well, I don't know Jesus on that level yet." I just look to my right, like next please, like he's going to pass over me, but I didn't know I was just pitching him right down the center, lob ball. I mean, this is every youth pastor's dream was to get this question, and he said, "Well, Dave," and he just pressed in, "If you died tonight, would you go to heaven or hell?" I'm like, "I'd go to heaven, no problem, easy." He's like, "Why ... "

    I seriously thought in my head, I'm good enough. I'm good enough to get into heaven. He shared with me the gospel, and that night, I said the prayer to become a Christian. I think it was more of a fire insurance sort of thing, and then, I didn't change anything. Still sold drugs, still partied, and then about maybe 4 or 5 months later, I got kicked out of school for selling drugs, and my friend had just given me a Bible, same friend that invited me to church years ago.

    I opened it up, after getting kicked out of school not knowing what to do with my life, opened it up in the middle of the book to the book of Job, but I thought it said "job," and I'm like, "I need a job. That's what I need."

    John:               Yeah, of course.

    David:             I'm going to read this to get a job. I started reading it, 4 chapters in, God called me and said, "You can go to ... " well, it was just the whole Proverbs thing. "You go down this road and it leads to death or you can go down this road, it leads to life." I said, "I'm going to follow Jesus. I'm going to give up everything and follow him."

    I got rid of all my drugs that night, called my youth pastor up, said, "I'm a Christian now. I'm going to follow Jesus. Disciple me." Well, I didn't say that, but you know. "I want to follow Jesus now." He discipled me, got into ministry, and started doing youth ministry when I graduated high school. Was ordained at 21. God started giving me favor in doing ministry, and I loved it.

    I became a youth pastor and then a young adult pastor, and then, I met a friend in Santa Barbara, who said, "I want to plant a church," and he basically invited me to become a part of Reality, and I moved there, to Santa Barbara, and then from Santa Barbara, God called me to San Francisco to plant a church in San Francisco.

    We started the church in 2010, and it's just turned 4 years old, and it's been wild. It's been absolutely wild.

    John:               Was there a point, as you were reading through the book of Job ... like obviously something sparked in your life. Was there, what am I saying here, like a resonating story between the two of you, between both Job dealing with all of these really harsh realities of his circumstances and maybe a little bit of what you were going through as an individual?

    David:             Absolutely. I had a student Bible (I know you guys sell them at your store), but I got one that was put out, I don't know, in the early 90s, or mid 90s, and when I opened it up to Job, it said, "When bad things happen to good people," was the student Bible heading over that, and I'm like, "That's me. I am good," I was still convinced of my goodness, "I'm good. I'm not nearly as bad as all my other friends. Why me? Why did I get kicked out of school?"

    I read it, and what struck me was Job was being tested, was allowed to be tested by God, and I had zero Bible knowledge, but I somehow resonated with that going, "Maybe God is testing me and he wants to get my attention, and will I curse God or will I choose to follow him?" It was at that moment that I really had a vision, I think a vision of God. Christ going, "Choose. This way or this way. This way leads to death. This way leads to life."

    John:               Your life has been changed ever since.

    David:             Yeah, absolutely. It was that moment of repentance, turning from my ways to God's ways. I prayed the prayer before. I don't know what it did. I can't even tell you what it did. I might have made me receptive to when the Spirit called me, but that moment, the Spirit of God called me, and I turned repentant and followed him, and that was the moment it all changed for me.

    John:               David, this is not a secret, but you have chosen to pastor a church in one of the most un-Christian cities here in the US. I'm curious maybe about your thoughts as far as being a pastor in a dark place, like where you guys have chosen residency, and what does that mean as far as other cities? Are you saying that the rest of the US is doing that much better spiritually than San Francisco, or what? Just give your thoughts on that.

    David:             Yeah. I think that San Francisco is just as sinful as everyone else, but everyone else manages their sin better. You might have religious sin somewhere. Other cities might wrestle with different types of sin. San Francisco just sins a lot more out loud, a lot more colorfully, but just as sinful. I mean, I've lived in Southern California. I lived in beautiful Santa Barbara, and people just sin. It's the same rebellion as in other places.

    Ministering here? I love ministering here. I heard one time someone say that when they ministered in Texas they would have to convince people they're not a Christian before they could share the gospel. I'm like, "Wow, that would be really hard, to tell someone they're not," like, "You're not a Christian. Just because you go to church doesn't make you a Christian." They had to convince them that they're not first, like cultural Christianity doesn't count, and that this is what the true gospel is.

    Here, I don't have to work through that layer. Here, I can just say, "This is the gospel," and people here have rejected it so much that it really shines. You hold up the smallest light, and it shines in the darkness, and so, I'm able to get up every Sunday morning and preach truth and it's just black and white, and I love that. I love that opportunity, so ministering here has been one of the joys of my life.

    After living in San Francisco for just 3 months, my wife and I felt like God created us to live here. Everything great about this city, we love it. We love the diversity and the complexity of it, the culture of it, the colorfulness of it, the density, I mean, all of it, the food. Just everything about San Francisco, we love. We absolutely love. The architecture, the topography, everything.

    We feel like we're created to live here and then not only are we created to live here, but we're called to preach the gospel here, and it's needed and it's like a healing balm to people as soon as they hear it because it's so different than what they hear normally in San Francisco.

    John:               David, are people responding well to the message of the gospel?

    David:             Yeah. When I moved here, everyone said, "You're going to the graveyard of churches." I mean, prominent churches and pastors have tried to plant churches here and have put millions of dollars of effort in planning a church here, and almost all of them have failed, and so they said, "So and so has tried it and so and so has tried it and so and so has tried it. Good luck. It's where churches go to die. Have fun," like, "There you go."

    I had very low expectations. The church was sending us to plant here. I told them, "Give us 10 years before this church is established. Give us 5 to 10 years of funding and support, because this church is going to take a long time to bring 100 people to get critical mass," and the very first Sunday, it just was packed. I have no idea how, like zero promotion. Our website was horrible. You couldn't even find it even if you Googled our name. I have no idea.

    We had a group of people, like 35, 40 people praying, and then our first Sunday, close to 200 people showed up, and then, it just hasn't stopped growing from there, from our very first Sunday. People were very, very hungry for the gospel, and we just came at a ... I don't know. There's a time, San Francisco was just coming up. Our nation was coming out of a recession. San Francisco was leading the way in that, and all these start-ups were happening, all the stuff that the whole world is hearing about right now and happening in San Francisco was starting to happen in 2009, 2010.

    We just came right there, and I think there was this catalytic sort of moment, there was something in the air here where God was doing something different, and our church was just right there at that right time. I have no idea how it worked, but it's working. We great to 4 services. We have 4 services going on. We had to turn people away from church because we couldn't fit them in the room, and we just recently got into a bigger building that seats like 1400 people, but we're packed again. We're at capacity, and we don't know what to do next.

    Yeah, I don't know. God's just doing it. I don't know.

    John:               I heard once before of a church that was being planted in a large city that seemed to be kind of living through this more casual approach to Christianity where it was more of a cultural or a club kind of atmosphere. Almost everybody went to church, but hardly anybody had a real relationship with Jesus, and to some extent, that church, when they started, they just raised a banner on the flagpole saying, "Hey, we are a church that is all about the centrality of the gospel. We're all about Jesus and wanting to see and understand how he changes us," and the same thing kind of happened.

    It sounds to me that to some extent, you guys are in that same type of approach. You're preaching the gospel to people, to a people that are just very hungry for it.

    David:             Yeah, absolutely. When we first started the church, we said we're a theological community that's centered around Christ, and we'll preach, which is like we'll have conversation, but we're going to preach the gospel. As we've done that, as we've proclaimed Christ and made Christ central, God has drawn people to himself. We didn't come in trying to be like this really cool, hip thing. People thought our name was Reality, because we were so real, like, "Are you guys because you're real?"

    We stripped everything down to no production at all at the church, basically a band, but they weren't even spotlighted. You couldn't even see who was on the stage, and you could see the words on the screen, and that was proclaiming the theology of what we were singing, and that was it. People were like, it was so refreshing to people. They were like, "That's so refreshing." The emphasis is off the people and on God and it's transcendent and it's beautiful, and so, yeah, absolutely.

    John:               That's fantastic. David, you have a new book that you just came out with with David C Cook Publishers. Titled The Truest Thing About You. What is behind this? Give us the 30,000-foot view of this book and how it's speaking into the identity of those that you guys are ministering to.

    David:             Yeah, I guess, I'll give you a little back story behind the book that probably captures why we wrote the book, why I wrote the book, and why we put it out.

    About a 1-1/2 years into the church, we were growing, like we were saying and like I was saying, and we just got finished with the book of Mark, and it was great, and people were falling in love with Jesus, people were speaking the name of Jesus and getting baptized in Jesus' name. It was just great. It just Christ centered. It was a beautiful thing.

    After that, we were seeing all these people turn to Christ, but then, they were still sinning in the church, and I don't know what I expected, but I expected, you come in contact with the real Christ, and he'll completely change your life. He'll change your lifestyle, and we weren't seeing that as much, and so, I wanted to teach them holiness, and I wanted to bring down the hammer of holiness.

    I told me executive pastor. I'm like, "I'm going to teach them holiness after Mark, and I'm going to make people like ... " I almost put my youth pastor hat back on and make people sign pledges and wear  promise rings and stuff like that. I realized if I start doing this, if I want to teach on holiness the way I want to teach on it, everyone will feel like they've been duped. Like, "You brought us in with the gospel, and now, you're putting on us the law." That sort of thing.

    I felt like I can't do that. I know that there's something wrong, not resonating with me there, and then, as I was reading through the New Testament and I wanted to teach on a book and I came to Colossians 2 and 3, and  Paul is talking to the church in Colossae, saying that these lists that you keep doing, he says in chapter that do not touch, do not taste, do not feel, these sort of rules that you put on Christianity do nothing to restrain your sensual indulgences.

    Then, he goes right into chapter 3, which is all about Christian sanctification, and he says, but who you are in Christ, the fact that Christ is your life, you have to live from there that identity. I took that and I was starting to go through it and finding all these places where I was realizing before God ever tells us what to do, he tells us who we are, so every single command of holiness is based on a truth about us. Then, I was like, I don't think I've ever really understood that to the level of profoundness that I did when I was studying it for a series, and I said, "I need to teach our church how to find their identity in Christ."

    What I did, this was 2011, and I couldn't find that many good books on identity, and I'm like, this is it. I started teaching on it, and everyone started resonating with it. I almost feel like no one's talking about this, like who I am in Christ, make that the basis of my entire identity and then from there flows holiness, from there flows what I'm supposed to do, from that flows the commandments, and then, it started tapping into what ways people find their identity in, especially in San Francisco.

    They move here to work. They move here to express themselves sexually. They move here to flaunt what they have, and when we do that, we find our identity in a job, in a thing, in a sexual orientation or desire, and that's not where we're called to find our identity.

    From that series of identity comes this book, so this book is all about who we are in Christ, getting all the way back to Imago Dei. How we were created, and then letting that, those hints of creation, who we are, who we were created to be really, give us signposts to who God wants to remake us into and being conformed to the image of his son, and then taking that from because of who we are in Christ, then what we're called to do, there's power behind that. We can actually live into our identity in Christ because of who we are.

    Then, it goes into every single command of God is based on the truth about us, and that's the whole title of the book, The Truest Thing About You. Once you find the truest thing and you realize and come to understand and accept the truest thing about us, everything else flows from there, and so, that's like a high level of what the book is about. It's about identity. It's about our desires, and it's about why all those things really matter in our walk with Christ, and I think it's the whole point of sanctification.

    John:               There's a foreword in the book by another pastor, Francis Chan. How did that come about?

    David:             Francis is a good friend of mine. We met here in San Francisco. He moved here, I think, 2011. The church was just turning a year old, and I remember him showing up to church and we had a mutual friend. My friend said, "Hey, you should go to Dave's church since you're in San Francisco. Check it out." He came one Sunday and we had lunch afterwards, and we just kind of hit it off. Our hearts were kindred, like our hope for the church, our hopes for San Francisco, our hopes for what the gospel can do in the life of a person. We just kind of connected.

    We've been friends for several years now. I wrote this book, and I sent it to Francis, saying, "Hey, I'd love if you could endorse the book or maybe thinking about writing a foreword to the book or whatever," and so, he's like, I mean, he probably gets that 100 times a day. I would imagine everyone in the world wants Francis to do something in the book. I sent it to him not expecting anything back, and he read it on his plane ride to China. He got to China, and he emailed me immediately. He said, "Hey, I don't have time to tell you that much stuff, but I deeply love this book. Like, it moved me. It changed the way I think about things."

    Then it was almost like a little weird ... It was kind of weird to me, but it was almost like a little confession saying, "I think I've pushed people to mission not based on their identity in Christ but based on you have to do this for God," and he goes, "I was so convinced that I needed to tell people who they are in Christ." I was blown away. I was like, "Wow, thank you," all this other stuff, and I said, "Let me know if you would consider writing something for the book."

    He said, "Hey, I wrote you a letter, and you can do whatever you want with it. You could put it in the book as is. You could change it to be more like a foreword or an endorsement, whatever, or you could just ditch it, whatever you want to do." We read it, and it was just such a heartfelt letter of how this book changed the way I see and pastor and even parent as well as other stuff, and we just thought, "Hey, I'm going to leave it in just as it is, and so the foreword of the book is basically a letter that he wrote to me, telling how the book really impacted his life.

    John:               That's so cool. All right. I'm going to read a little bit here, just one quote at the very end, and then, I just have one more question for you, David.

    You write at the end "Christ is your life. He gives you a new identity and will work that new identity out in your life until the day when he appears. On that day, you will finally see clearly as Christ sees you now. You will know as you are known." What a great promise that is. That's awesome. I've been challenged by this book, and I want to encourage anybody who's reading this interview to go out and pick up a copy of David Lomas' new book, The Truest Thing About You. It's a good book, it's a challenging book.

    I wrestled as I was reading this book. There were a couple of parts in it as I was going through, and I was like, "I don't like where he's going with this," and then, of course, by the end of the chapter, I was like, "Of course, yes. This makes sense," and I felt like God was hitting me over the head with a 2 x 4, which was great.

    Hey, I have to ask, are you a coffee drinker or a Mountain Dew drinker? What is your culture like in San Francisco?

    David:             I don't remember the last time I had a Mountain Dew. Coffee all the way, absolutely. The culture here in San Francisco is a insane coffee culture, almost too insane, almost too snobby. Yeah, it's just like insane.

    John:               Now, is it like froo-froo coffee for you, or is it just like, hey, straight up black coffee?

    David:             Oh, straight up. Like, I'll add some milk or something to it, but yeah, every morning.

    John:               Anyway, David, hey, thank you so much, man, for chatting with me today. I really appreciate it. God bless you, brother. Thank you very much.

    For more on David's book, click here.

    Book Endorsements

    “The truth hurts, the phrase goes, but Dave Lomas shows how the truest truth blesses and heals. Read this book and be reminded, or hear for the first time, that you are beloved. Trust it is true, and love will change your life. Enjoy Lomas’ masterful fusion of pastoral compassion, writerly wit, and spiritual sincerity.”

    Jenell Paris, professor of anthropology at Messiah College and author of The End of Sexual Identity

    “We live in a world where it is so incredibly easy to have what we think about ourselves subtly and sometimes not so subtly shaped by culture, people, and our own insecurities. The Truest Thing about You is a compass and a map that will help us see how we may have missed the incredible way God created us to be and how He sees us, which is our true identity. Too many people live their lives not understanding what Dave writes about here and what a joy it is thinking about how people’s lives will radically change if they grasp the truths within this book.”

    Dan Kimball, pastor of Vintage Faith and author of They Like Jesus But Not the Church

    “Dave Lomas is not only a great pastor and author, but a great friend. Over the last few years my heart has been broken beyond my wildest imagination as I watched my young daughter die of cancer. There were times that I would not have made it through if Dave were not there to shepherd my soul with the same great wisdom, insight, compassion and incisive truth that overflows this book. I am so thankful for him and the way that this book will serve to heal and propel so many into the mission of Christ.”

    Britt Merrick, pastor and author of Godspeed

    The Truest Thing about You is an important book. It’s important because it cuts to the core of what it means to be human, what it means to be loved by God, and what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. And this is not just theory. Dave writes from deep experiences pastoring in one of America’s most identity-rich cities. Rarely has a book gotten to the heart of the issue with such precision and skill. I believe this will be a powerful tool for helping people be more transformed into the image of Jesus.”

    Jon Tyson, lead pastor at Trinity Grace Church New York

    “We are a generation haunted by the question: who am I? More than ever before, we wander through life confused and lost amid the panoply of options. In a cultural milieu of one identity crisis after another, Dave Lomas’ first book comes as firm ground under our feet. Dave is a friend I know and respect. He’s smart, humble, kind, self-effacing, and he has something to say. I encourage you to listen up.”

    John Mark Comer, pastor for teaching and vision at Bridgetown and author of Loveology

    “Dave Lomas is hitting on one of the great felt needs of our generation by asking this transformative question: What is the truest thing about you? His perspective on identity is truly needed, flipping the entire subject on its head and driving to the center of who we are as people, and ultimately as leaders. Is it what you do? Is it what you're good at? Is it who you know? The answer is so much bigger than these things. I urge you not to miss this important book!”

    Brad Lomenick, author of The Catalyst Leader and President and Key Visionary of Catalyst

    "There is only one thing more important than who you think you are … that's who God knows you are. Our lives are full of opportunities to define ourselves by what we do, have, or desire, but with honesty and wisdom, Dave Lomas brings us back to the truest thing about you. This book is for everyone who wonders 'who am I, really?' … which is everyone!"

    Nicole Unice, Christian counselor and coauthor of Start Here


    This post was posted in Books, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, David Lomas, Francis Chan, Jenell Paris, Dan Kimball, Britt Merrick, Jon Tyson, John Mark Comer, Brad Lomenick, Nicole Unice

  • Kari Jobe - Pioneering New Roads in Worship

    Posted on March 20, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Dictionary.com gives the definition of pioneer in the following ways
    1. a person who is among those who first enter or settle a region, thus opening it for occupation and development by others.
    2. one who is first or among the earliest in any field of inquiry, enterprise, or progress.
    3. one of a group of foot soldiers detailed to make roads.

    For more than 15 years, well-respected worship leader Kari Jobe has been using her gifts to lead people into the presence of God. When she began leading worship at age 13, she never imagined she would be nominated for a GRAMMY®, win a Dove Award or be praised by the New York Times. She only knew she had a heart for broken people and a deep desire to lead them to the cross.

    Pioneer? This may be the word that describes who Kari is and what she hopes to do as an artist.

    I sat down with Kari and asked about her background. Where she came from, how she found Jesus and where is she going.

    Kari is real. She didn't hold back. She has no problem sharing who she is and what she is about. Her new album, Majestic and where God is taking here. Admittedly, her greatest accolade always has been and always will be the opportunity to reflect Christ. “I don’t see myself any differently than when I was 13, just a worship leader,” she admits. “It’s just sometimes I open my eyes and there’s a few more people worshipping God with me.”

    Kari:                I was raised in a Christian family and my mom and dad did ministry, so we were in churches all the time. My parents sang, so as soon as I could pick up a mic I wanted to sing.  I just thought that's just what we do, we sing (laughs).  I just started falling in love with the fact that God ministered to people in worship. That it could reach people in their emotions and really help them in what they were facing. That they didn’t really know what they wanted to say, but that a song helped them.  I just did music all during that.

    As soon as I could be in the worship team at my church I did. Then in college I did the same thing. I just started really diving into just a lot of worship, a lot of leading worship and being on teams and stuff.  When I went to Christ for the Nations I recorded Revelation Song for the first time.  I would say that that song was a big game changer for me.  I just started using it.  People would start calling asking “Hey doesn’t the girl that sing Revelation Song go to your church.”  I was a worship pastor at Gateway Church in Texas.

    The church just started letting me travel a little bit to go and minister outside the four walls of our building.

    John:               Were your parents much of an influence to you as far as helping you lead and worship.  In other words are they musical as well?

    Kari:                Yeah absolutely.  I sang with them when I was in young.  My dad was the youth worship pastor and lead worship a lot for adult services and I just would sing on the team with him and my mom was on the worship team.  I remember sitting, when I was six years old, listening to her sing the alto line of the worship songs at church.  We would have these nights of worship at my church that would last two and three hours of just worship. People just sitting on the floor, all over the room, just to meet with God.  I grew up in that kind of atmosphere and that kind of heritage where we just waited on the presence of God.

    I got really impacted by the fact that depending on God is real, and it’s not just songs. We’re touching heaven with our worship and God is inhabiting the praises of his people and moving in a room and ministering. Speaking to people.

    John:               Kari you said one time, “Worship for me has always been such a rescue place in my life.”  What does that mean when you say that?  What’s behind those words?

    Kari:                This life that we go through comes with lots of surprises. Everyone has a hard time in life. With family or with friends.  I had a very, very dear close family friend go to prison when I turned 18 and with the Lord over that. There are moments were it's just the deep sorrow in everyone's life.  In that moment, I didn’t know what else to do, but to just turn worship music on or get my guitar out and start playing and pouring my heart out to the Lord.  I realized that worship was just a place that God would meet with us and that I could say things, think things and pray. Just pray songs over my heart.  In those moments its a song that was helping me say things to God or helping me find refuge and strength and hope.

    Experiencing that for myself made me realize how powerful it is to be able to do that for other people and to help them do that through music.  Probably what really made me do what I’m doing today because I just experienced that the transformation of my own life because of worship.

    John:               Yeah. I get it.  You obviously have played a lot of both churches as well as church conferences in your musical career.  Do you think the church here in North America is in a healthy place as far as worship is concerned?

    Kari:                I do.  I think that we’re just in a really exciting season of seeing some denominational barriers come down.  I could literally walk into a church and lead worship and not know what denomination I was in that night.  We’re doing a lot of different churches from Assembly of God to Methodist to Baptist.  People are just coming to church so hungry for a move of God and I think we’re just in a really exciting season in the church.

    John:               Speak about that for a moment.  What does that mean when we’re at that season of a "movement of God?"  I think there’s a lot of people that are expecting, almost sensing that type of activity from God moving upon His church.  What do you hope to see?  What does that feel like for you?

    Kari:                I think it’s because people are just so hungry for more.  I’ve watched the church grow in the last 10 years. There are so many more people coming to church.  Churches are having to do so many more services and I see that because I’m going into these churches and I used to do one service where now I’m doing five and six on a weekend because they’re having to do multiple services.  I get to see a lot of different kind of churches all over the nation and internationally, London, Australia, different places.  It just feels that people are just hungry for more of God. Not just wanting to come to church to get preached at, but they’re wanting to be interactive and feel the spirit of God move.

    I think I would just say that it’s just people are hungry and learn a place of expectancy. When "two or three are gathered in My name," we're going to see things because God comes where He’s welcomed.  A little more together than seeing you stare, but there’s something really powerful when people are saying God come and have your way.  Come and move and just opening their hearts up to the Lord to let Him move, not just coming because it’s a weekly duty of “Well it’s Sunday.  I should go to church.”  People are coming because they want to be there and they are hungry for more of a move of God.  I think that’s what we’re experiencing.

    John:               You just mentioned the verse where two are three are gathered in God’s presence.   With that context, you set out into the making of the new record.  In the context of community.  You set out ona journey of making this record within a community type of approach.  It wasn’t just Kari Jobe by herself.  You had other people speaking into the songs. Some of those would include Paul Baloche, Matt Redman.  You had Tomlin with you, Brian Johnson from Bethel Music, others.  Was that a different approach for you compared to the other two albums that you made?

    Kari:                I always like to co-write.  I love collaborating with other writers.  On this album I mainly collaborated with worship and congregational church writers and people who get it. That really have a heart for congregational worship.  That was my main theme and my main focus for the church and for songs people want to sing in church.

    John:               Was it fun to sit down with those guys?

    Kari:                Oh amazing.  It’s amazing too to just sit down with people who have hearts and like-minded desires.  All of us. Matt. Chris. Brian Johnson - that was our main goal in our heart.  Just to see the church singing songs and anthems. To sit with them and just to hear what they’re sensing for the church, what I’m sensing for the church and what God wants to say. You know I think back to the stuff that we read in 1st & 2nd Chronicles about the Levites and how David would send the worshipers out first and that the worshipers would lead the way into war.

    There’s something that is happening when worship leaders get together and we say what we’re seeing and what we’re experiencing because it’s the same today as it is back then in the Old Testament.  We see things and we can sense what Gods doing. We are asking those questions of God. "What do you want to say to the church?"  "What do you want the church singing?" It’s just powerful first to all do that together.

    John:               That’s quite an experience for sure.

    Kari:                Yeah it really is and to see what songs are working and what songs aren’t working.  It’s like people and the army of Israel would get together and say “This is what’s working in battle and this is what’s not working."  "We need to get rid of this and we need to keep doing this other thing.”  It’s the same thing with the Spirit and we’re tapping in the church and in the spiritual realm.  What’s working and what’s moving and what’s happening in the church in these songs?  Let’s write some more of those.

    John:               Yeah.  Kari this new record is a live album is a little different than other new records. I mean technically when an artist does a live record, they usually go through their catalog and sing songs from previous albums and that’s what makes the live record. You didn’t do that though.  You became very vulnerable. You went out to a concert setting with a list of new songs and recorded them live.  How was that process?

    Kari:                (Laughs) it was awesome.  It was really exciting because people were just as soon as they were catching on that night they were singing them at the top of their lungs.  It was just exciting.  I think everyone knew too coming into that they were going to be new songs so there’s different kind of expectancy with that.  People were ready.  They’ve got their thinking caps on and they’re ready to go and they came ready to help me do a live album.  You could tell.  I told them before we pressed the record button, I don’t care if you sing, even if you know the lyrics or not.

    I told them that I just want them to be interceding for the people that will hear these songs for the first time. That I want to capture the sound and I want to capture an atmosphere on worship on the project that doesn’t have anything to do with the lyrics.  It just has everything to do with the spirit of God being welcomed into this room and moving on this album.  There were times you could hear people praying and times you could just hear people speaking the name of Jesus and that’s just as powerful as them singing any of the songs or any of the lyrics.  We’re capturing the sound of worship.  It was pretty amazing how people just showed up to really help me do the album.

    John:               Kari are you a book reader?

    Kari:                Sometimes (laughing).

    John:               What’s on your book shelf right now that you’re reading?

    Kari:                That’s awesome of you to ask because I just downloaded a new one last night from Bill Johnson called Hosting the Presence.  I’m reading that.  I’m readings Christine Caine's book Undaunted.  I like to read books that really challenge me to keep moving forward and being a pioneer and being someone who just wants God. Wants and wants to be a vessel of the Holy Spirit.  I read some dangerous type books (laughs).

    John:               Do you view yourself as a pioneer?

    Kari:                I do, yeah.

    John:               Yeah, kind of breaking new ground in a sense.

    Kari:                Yes, that’s what I hope to be or I would like to be known as a pioneer in worship.

    John:               Yeah I think that’s a good name for you.

    Kari:                Thank you.

    John:               Moving away from the record besides leading worship, what else do you really enjoy doing?

    Kari:                I love longboard skateboard.  I went for a skate this morning.

    John:               Really.

    Kari:                The weather’s amazing here today.  I love shopping.  I have a new baby nephew and he’s amazing.  I’m a daughter, I’m a sister and a longboard skateboarder and I’m really a fanatic about social media (laughing).

    John:               That’s awesome.  Where can we find you on Instagram?

    Kari:                Just my full name Kari Jobe.

    John:               Got it.  Kari thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.  I really appreciate it.

    Kari:                Yeah absolutely.

    The truth is, Kari may now lead worship for thousands around the world, thanks to an expanding platform, but for her, the songs birthed for Majestic have nothing to do with her. “It’s not about me,” she emphasizes. “If it became about me, that would be dangerous and wrong. It’s about Him. It’s a great honor and a great responsibility, but it’s not any different than me just living my life every day needing Him in my circumstances.”

    Kari's new album will be available in CD, CD/DVD and DVD.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Chris Tomlin, Bill Johnson, Kari Jobe, Matt Redman, Bethel Music, Paul Baloche, Christine Caine

  • Blog Summary for February 2014

    Posted on February 27, 2014 by Family Christian

    Here are the most popular blog posts as read by you. Thank you for following us!


    Diving Deep with Casting Crowns

    Like a tree planted by the water (Jeremiah 17:7-8) we should be digging into God's word to know Him and know who He has made us to be. We should be reaching out to the world and showing others who He is through our lives and our stories - knowing Him and making Him known.

    I caught up with Mark, Melody and Juan from Casting Crowns at a summer festival this year. I wanted them to feel me in on their new album and what has been going on in their life as a band.

    Read the full interview here.

    A Q&A with Capital Kings

    There’s no denying much of today’s music has the power to move the masses physically. Inventive beats and hooky choruses are the currency of the day. Now enter Capital Kings, a talented duo that blends pop, electronic dance music, and rap into an intoxicating musical mix that makes audiences want to move, and yet there’s a thought-provoking, life-affirming undercurrent. Capital Kings combine style with substance and introduce flash with a foundation.

    Read the full q&a here.

    Pulling No Punches - an interview with Lecrae

    From “latch-key kid” to key player in the Man Up movement, Lecrae’s life is an example of God’s transformative power – and he’s not quiet about it. In his signature straight-shoot approach, new album Gravity calls Christians to open their eyes to the weight of need in their world and share the love of Jesus as never before.

    I had gotten into trouble my senior summer. Financial trouble, trouble with other people, trouble with women – I was just running myself into a dead end. So I’m thinking, “I’m seventeen, let me do the mature, adult thing, and go to church.” Grandma was a Christian so the roots of the foundation I had established of the Christian God were through my grandmother. And that was where I needed to go. By grace, there was a young lady that I went to high school with that invited me to a Bible study. I went, and I had never seen Christians who dressed like me or talked like me, so I thought they were Martians from another planet! When I saw them, I said, “Oh you guys are human!” They loved me genuinely and that’s really what started it.

    To read the full interview, click here.

    Question and Answers with Nick Vujicic

    Being unstoppable is about believing and achieving. It’s about having faith in yourself, your talents and your purpose and, most of all, in God’s great love and His divine plan for your life.

    Millions around the world recognize the smiling face and inspirational message of Nick Vujicic. Despite being born without arms or legs, Nick’s challenges have not kept him from enjoying great adventures, a fulfilling and meaningful career, and loving relationships. Nick has overcome trials and hardships by focusing on the promises that he was created for a unique and specific purpose, that his life has value and is a gift to others, and that no matter the despair and hard times in life, God is always present. Nick credits his success in life to the power that is unleashed when faith takes action.

    Read the full q&a here.

    Francesca Battistelli - A Girl. A Voice. A Mission.

    "The more you walk in relationship with the Lord, the more you learn to trust him. I'm learning not to focus so much on the issues I think are so big right now—our bus has broken down, or someone said something that frustrated me. I'm learning to slowly let things roll off my back, to say, 'Hey, God knew about this before it happened and He's got a way out or a plan better than mine.' I've learned to stop freaking out and just trust that God knows what he's doing. He's not going to leave me in a bad place because He never has before."

    Such it is with Francesca Battistelli. Honest. Simple. Beautiful. Intentional.

    We have all been exposed to her music. Starting with "I'm Letting Go," or "Free to Be Me." "This is the Stuff" or "Strangely Dim." It doesn't matter. For every time that "Franny" opens her mouth to sing, she is opening her heart.

    Read our full interview here.

    Saying "I Love You"

    Many people say that Valentines Day is a made up holiday, put in place by the greeting card companies of the world. Well, truth be told, I don't care. It is a day to help us remember to say "I love you" to those around us. Taking the time each day to show love is certainly important, but it's also fun to get caught up in a holiday such as this day.

    So how do you say "I love you" to someone you love? Perhaps it's packing two cookies in the kid's school lunch. Maybe it's a surprise delivery of flowers for your spouse at work. Maybe it's even a call to your mother-in-law. How do you say "I love you?"

    Read the full blog post here.

    The Storm Inside - Sheila Walsh

    The chaos of life can be overwhelming, and women seem to get a heavier dose. Each day comes with its own pressures, heartaches and disappointments that slowly erode the joy, peace and closeness to God every woman needs. Chaos always feels like the enemy as it rages around us and inside us.

    In The Storm Inside: Trade the Chaos of How You Feel for the Truth of Who You Are, bestselling author and Women of Faith speaker Sheila Walsh invites you into ten life-changing, hope-filled transformations where hurt and heartache are divinely redeemed into joy and faith. With

    Read the full blog post here.

    Mandisa - Finding Freedom by Overcoming

    Coming off her most successful album ever, Mandisa returned to the studio to record her new album, Overcomer. Her previous album, What If We Were Real, has sold over 270,000 albums and featured the breakout radio hits “Good Morning,” “Waiting For Tomorrow,” and the #1 hit, “Stronger.” The American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee continues to be a voice of encouragement and truth to women facing life’s challenges. Mandisa also continues to have unprecedented media exposure for a Christian artist including two recent appearances on Good Morning America.

    I sat down with Mandisa at a local coffee shop to talk about new music, coffee vs. tea, family and what it means to be an over-comer. What follows is a real conversation. Mandisa, some would say is a true artist. She is that for sure, but she is so much more. She is a warrior in a huge battle. She is a fighter - fighting for the truth of the Gospel. That can be summed up with one statement from her, "There is joy unspeakable!"

    Read the full interview here.

    Skillet. The Rock Band That Doesn't Quit

    Skillet recently made headlines when their last album, Awake, became one of just three rock albums to be certified platinum in 2012, forming an improbable triumvirate with the Black Keys’ El Camino and Mumford & Sons’ Babel. The news that Skillet had sold more than a million albums in the U.S. came as a shock to all but the band’s wildly diverse horde of fans, male and female, young and old—known as Panheads—whose still-swelling ranks now officially number in the seven-digit range. This remarkable achievement was announced just as Skillet was putting the finishing touches on their eagerly awaited follow-up album, Rise (Atlantic/Word).

    As soon as the master was turned in to the studio to finish post production on the new album, I sat down with John Cooper (lead singer) to talk through what was behind Rise. As you will see, while reading this, John is a passionate man. He is passionate about his music. His wife. His family. About Christ.

    Read the full interview here.

    Matt Maher. On Being Christian.

    Matt Maher's newest album, All The People Said Amen," fuses the popularity of his vibrant live show with several new studio cuts, offering fans an assortment of writing and performance styles.

    “This project,” offers Maher, “is a real collage of who I am musically. You’ll hear intimate worship songs, anthemic praise tunes often sung and shouted aloud together in unison, and celebratory songs that inspire the whole church.”

    I chatted with Matt on cold winter day.  What follows is a conversation on who Matt is, what he hopes to accomplish and how he just wants to sing about Jesus.

    Read the full interview here.

    So which blog post was your favorite? Is there an author or an artist that you would like us to interview? Leave a comment below and let us know.


    This post was posted in Music, Books, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Lecrae, Francesca Battistelli, Nick Vujicic, Casting Crowns, Mandisa, Capital Kings, Matt Maher, Skillet, Sheila Walsh

  • Shedding Light On the Story

    Posted on February 24, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Several years ago, when Matthew West invited people to share their stories to serve as inspiration for an upcoming album, he had no idea it would be the start of an amazing journey that would forever change his music, ministry and life. Armed with more than 10,000 stories from fans all over the world, the floodgates of inspiration opened and West crafted a landmark album, The Story of Your Life. Suddenly people were given a voice and a chance for their stories to be heard. It started a powerful wave that continues with even greater momentum on West’s new album Into the Light.

    “On every level it has been the single most fulfilling thing that I’ve had a chance to be a part of in my career,” West says. “It’s just the added element of emotion that I feel by having a chance to be a part of this person’s story and to share their story with an audience. Something really special is taking place and I’m along for the ride for as long as it needs to go. As long as those stories come in, I think I’m going to keep making these kinds of records.”

    I ran into Matthew at a recent festival and we decided to talk over what has been happening in his life.

    John:               Matthew, on your album The Story of Your Life you had letter after letter, story after story filling you with ideas for a new record. You went back to all those letters that were written to you and continued to go through that process of writing songs based on what people were telling you.

    Matthew:       Sort of, yes.  Well, what’s interesting is instead of going back to all the stories that I had read, the stories never stopped coming in, and so I really didn’t plan on making more than one record of songs inspired by peoples’ stories, but what happened is, after the first 10,000 or so came in, I release The Story of Your Life, which had songs like “My Own Little World” and “Strong Enough.

    What I began to notice is that as one story is told, two more were coming out and saying, “Okay, I want to tell my story now,” and people just began to come out of the woodwork, and at my concerts, it still happens now, at the end of a concert, I’ll go back to the bus with a handful of handwritten stories, and I began to just really feel it press upon me that what was happening by not just putting out a CD, but to put out a CD of songs really putting a new emphasis on, hey, these are the every day true stories of peoples’ lives was beginning to stir something within people, and it really kind of began to refine what I feel my calling is, which is to encourage and empower people to realize that God has a unique one-of-a-kind story that He’s telling through each and every life.

    In the last three years, we’ve received well over 25,000 stories.  In fact, I was just showing my friend this morning some new stories that had just come in, so I can read stories every day, and in many ways, this has just become … it’s not really volume two or volume three.  This is just part of my process now, and I've made a promise that as long as people share their stories with me, I’ll read their stories and turn as many of them as I can into hopefully inspiring music that will challenge and inspire other people.

    John:               Matthew, when read the stories, do you ever feel like a huge weight on your shoulders?  I mean, do you feel like, “Oh my goodness, these people are just pouring their hearts out to me.”  How do you …

    Let me just backtrack a year.  A friend of mine, he works in the ER, and there is a process you kind of have to go through as … things, for different patients that were kind of coming in that didn’t go the way the family were all hoping it would go.  I’m sure you encounter those same type of situations where you’re getting a story that is just like … this is wrong.

    Matthew:       Yes.

    John:               How do you deal with that?

    Matthew:       I think it’s funny you mentioned someone who works in a hospital, or I think at one point in time, we could all say we’ve had a doctor that maybe didn’t have the best bedside manner, or maybe they seemed cold or distant, and I think I've begun to understand how maybe there is that need for a doctor to separate his own personal emotions from a heartbreaking story because he’s seeing it so often.

    And yet, what I've noticed is in my reading, as a songwriter, you’re not a good songwriter if you’re not completely connected with all of your heart when you’re writing that song.  I’m not really afforded that luxury of detaching myself from any emotion.  I have to be running full-speed ahead towards that and embracing what people are writing to me, and I think the only way I can really answer how that’s been able to happen is just I feel like God has really given me different eyes to see these stories.

    What I mean by that is the vast majority of the stories that come in, I’m not going to lie … people will … what I've realized is when you ask somebody “What’s your story?  What was the defining moment in your story?” very few people are going to point to the money in their bank account or their college diploma or what kind of puppy they had when they were growing up.  Instead, they’re going to talk about some of the most difficult moments of their lives or their battle with cancer, or their financial trouble, or their marital trouble, or the abuse they suffered as a child.

    You’re exactly right.  One by one, I've read stories that can be seen as heartbreaking, and yet somehow, some way, and this is no joke, in every story I read, what I can sense is God is still at work, and just in the fact that that person wrote to me, even if that person is writing to me saying, “I’m struggling to see where there’s any hope in my story,” the fact that they’re writing means that they’re searching, means that they’re reaching out, and so while it may be at different stages, God is at work in each and every one of these stories, and his work is not finished yet.

    I really feel like my job is to extract the hope from these stories and to be accurate and authentic with what I’m writing about.  For example, there’s a song on my CD.  It’s called “Two Houses” inspired by a teenage girl who’s dealing with the reality that her Dad just up and walked out, and now she’s having to go back and forth and learn what life and love and trust and all those words are starting to kind of be redefined for her.  Well, I’m not going to just tie a bow on that story and just make it neatly wrapped like the end of a Brady Bunch episode, but I want to be authentic and real and genuine, and yet just as real with the pain, I want to be just as real and authentic with the hope that I believe we all have no matter where we’re at in our stories, and that hope comes from one source, and that’s the hope we have in Christ that he somehow, some way, works all things for the good.

    John:               So life is not summed up in a Brady Bunch episodes.

    Matthew:       It is not, and I’ll tell you what, I’m 25,000 stories and counting.  I’m reading, and I’m realizing that, man, people walk in the doors of the church, and everybody’s trying real hard to act like they’ve got it all together.  These stories I've read, I didn’t advertise that I was collecting stories in People magazine.  There were no posters in bars downtown.  These were people who walk into family Christian stores.  These are people who listen to Christian radio stations or go to church on Sunday, and yet they’re carrying some pretty heavy weight.  They’re carrying some difficult parts of their story, and many of them are struggling to figure out how to move on and how to find healing for those broken places in their story.

    In many ways, I feel like these songs that are coming out of the experience have become sort of a soundtrack for broken people and kind of realizing that, man, there’s community here, and it’s not the fake “everybody’s got it all together” community.  What if it was, “hey, we don’t have it all together, but we all have a story to tell, and we realize that God loves us, and he's not finished with our story yet.”  That’s what fires me up to make music this way.

    John:               You’re a dad … are you a dad?

    Matthew:       I am a dad, yeah, two kids.

    John:               You’re married.

    Matthew:       Yes.

    John:               You’re …

    Matthew:       You’ve got … like how many kids do you have?  Like 12?

    John:              You’re a successful singer/songwriter.  You’re nationally known.  Your face is on a can of Pepsi (so is Franny's, Matt Maher's, and TobyMac's - but still!).

    Matthew:       (laughs) Yes, it is.  I’m infamous, as the Three Amigos once said.

    John:               Infamous.  When … talk to the average Joe who’s just … you know, he's living life, and maybe he’s married, maybe he’s not.  Maybe he’s a single dad, single mom, whatever, and college student, just trying to get through life, and looks at you and says, “Oh yeah, Matthew West, man, he's got it all together.  If only I could be like that guy.”  I mean, how do you live your life on a day-to-day basis, because we know that, you know, being up on stage is not necessarily … that's not life.  I mean, it is who you are, but yet at the same time, how does someone like in your shoes pursue Jesus.

    Matthew:       To start off answering that question honestly, I would say that I've lived much of my life trying to present an image to people of not imperfection but that I've got it all together.  So here's my story.  I grew up as a preacher’s kid and felt an intense pressure as early as I can remember from the people in the church who were looking at me and maybe holding me up to a higher level of expectation, a higher standard, and I constantly just felt like I was living in a glass bubble, and everybody was watching me.

    No lie.  I got to this point where like I felt like I could manipulate and act a certain way.  I knew how to look and talk and act and say all the right things.  I knew that if I … I wrote about this in my book recently that I knew if I raised my hand to worship during the slow song in church that because I was in the front row that the ladies … yeah, everybody behind me would go, “Oh, okay, he’s okay.”

    I saw that as a way of, like, one, that’s a dangerous path to be on, because the authenticity continues to get edged out of your life, and the presentation becomes much more important, much more significant, and then that’s just an open door for sin to creep into your life and for you to realize that you can cover and that you don’t have to be the real deal as long as everybody sees you as the real deal.

    Honestly, reading the stories that I've read, they’ve actually challenged me.  Instead of me getting up on stage and wanting to present myself to somebody who’s got it all together, because guess what?  That preacher’s kid grew up to become a professional singer.  And what do we do?  We’re on stage all the time.  And what do we do when we’re on stage?  Air our dirty laundry?  No, we want to sing well, and we want to look good, and we want to perform.  We want people to applaud us.  These stories have begun to challenge me to realize that’s not what it’s about.  It’s about being authentic, it’s about being real, and it’s about telling your story.

    One of the things that I share from the stage is one of the things that God’s begun to teach me in my life over and over again is that a long time in my life I've spent holding up parts of my story to God, and saying, “God, here, you can use this part of me,” and so I would pick what I think are the best parts of me, and I would put only that under his care.  What these peoples’ stories have taught me and how good things have come out of broken beginnings is that all the while God’s looking at me and everybody else who tries to make everybody think they’re perfect and saying, “I know about your good stuff.  I’m the one who gave it to you.  Give me all the rest.  Give me the worst mistake you’ve ever made.  Give me the junk in your story and watch me work something amazing out of it.”

    I guess one of the songs I’ll be singing on stage tonight is called we are the broken.  That’s kind of like my anthem of going, “I don’t want the audience to look at me and see someone who’s got his act together.  I want them to see somebody who’s realized that we’re all the same, we’re all broken, and yet God somehow isn’t done with us, and when we show the world that we’re broken, the worlds not going to look at us and applaud us anymore.  They’re going to look at God and say, “Wow, God changed his life?  Maybe he can do the same with mine.”

    John:               Why do you think people are so apt to putting on a mask?  Why do you think followers of Jesus … we can understand that maybe somebody who does not know Christ, why they would put on a mask, but I mean, the Gospel calls us to be secure in Christ, but yet at the same time, we are scared to death to expose ourselves to our brothers and sisters in the church?  Why is that?

    Matthew:       For one, I think that’s one of the reasons why somebody who doesn’t have a personal relationship with God would be turned off by the church, and I've heard a lot of people say that.  It’s like, “Man, Christians are two-faced,” or “They’re not authentic,” and I think we could all agree that there’s times where I see more what looks like authenticity in the world.

    John:               Right.

    Matthew:       People that aren’t going to church because they’re not claiming to be anything, do you know what I mean?  I think one of the things that my dad always shared with me that has stuck with me my whole childhood and now where I’m at today because I grew up in church, and at times, I would be hurt or offended or turned off when I saw somebody who out of their mouth was claiming to be a Christian but by their lifestyle and the way they acted and the way maybe they treated my dad or my parents, they didn’t back it up.  It felt like it was two-faced or a double standard.  My dad always said to me, “People inside the church, they’re just as flawed.  The church is filled with broken people who don’t have it all together, and so you can’t let your relationship with God be defined by other Christians.  It has to be between you and God, because people will always let you down.”

    Yet, I think one of the things that I notice, and I travel around churches all the time is I see that sign on the door that says “Come as you are,” and yet when you walk inside, it oftentimes doesn’t feel like the people really believe that.  I think that’s one of the missions that I’m on in having people tell their story is that one of the enemies greatest tricks in our lives and tools is isolation.  If he can get us to feel like, one, you’re messed up, and two, you’re the only one.  If you get that in your head, you start to go back into the shadows, and you start to retreat, and what you do is you retreat in the shadows, but you still have to function in every day life.

    You come to church, but your heart, your soul’s still in the shadows, and you clean yourself off so that nobody will know that you’re in the shadows, and there that isolation goes, and I know that all too well, and that's why I feel like I’m encouraging people to tell their story because I feel like when one person steps up and says, “All right, here's my story, no more mask,” it draws other people out into that light just like that person saying, “I want to find the freedom that that person has.”  How else do you explain 10,000 stories becoming 25,000 stories, becoming what I believe is going to be a million stories?

    It’s not just about a million stories.  It’s about the fact that we’re going from a story-haver to a story teller.  We’re going from being a Christian to being a disciple, you know, to being somebody who believes in you’re head that you’ve been set free to somebody who’s willing to really step into the light and say, “I’m so set free and I've found such freedom in my life because of God that I’m willing to let him even use the not-so-good parts of my life.”

    When that starts happening, a powerful thing takes place in our world, I believe.

    Here is one last story to illustrate that, and it’s a story of a woman named Jenny, and she wrote to me, and she said, “I've never told this to anybody before, but I heard you in a conference talking about telling your story and finding freedom.”  And she said, “Thirty-five years ago, I was a scared teenager, and I got pregnant, and my boyfriend at the time didn’t want anything to do with me or the baby, and I was too scared to tell anybody because I was afraid I'd be judged.”

    So she terminated the pregnancy and never told anybody.  For 35 years, never told anybody, but that isolation made her feel separated from God because she just felt so much shame in her life, and she somehow just felt like, “I need to set this free,” and maybe she felt like sending her story to a complete stranger would be a safe thing.  In fact, I called her and I said, “Why did you send it to me?” and she said, “I never thought you’d actually read it.”  But I did, and I wrote a song about it called “The Healing Has Begun.”

    That woman in the progression in her life to me is a beautiful example of what can happen to all of when we stop wearing the mask and when we step out of isolation and begin to seek out community and mostly communion with God, is now, she just finished her training, and she’s a counselor at the crisis pregnancy center in the town where she lives in.  You see how God is uniquely redeeming her story.  That’s a full circle.  No more mask.  No more isolation.  After 35 years of feeling weighed down, she’s found freedom and joy, and now she’s seeing a purpose even for that most difficult part of her story.

    That’s an example of what I’m hoping to encourage people, and not just other people but myself to walk in that and to realize that, man, God’s going to change your story.  He's going to heal your most broken parts, and he's going to use it in powerful way if you'll let him.

    John:               Awesome.

    For more from Matthew West, click here.

     


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, TobyMac, Matthew West, Francesca Battistelli, Matt Maher

  • Jeremy Camp - Continuing to Live Recklessly

    Posted on February 24, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Last year I had the privilege of sitting down with Jeremy Camp to talk about, then, his new album, Reckless (find the interview here). It was an honest conversation with a man who continues to struggle with what it's like to pursue Christ with his whole life. His whole being.

    I say down with Jeremy again because I wanted to "check in" and see what God has been teaching him through this journey. What follows is certainly a continuation of where we left off.

    John:               Jeremy, the thought behind the record is obviously living out this really reckless life with complete abandon to the call of what Christ has for you. What has that looked like in last few months for you?

    Jeremy:           Yea... We've been talking to some missionary friends in the Ukraine and Kurdistan. I didn't know much about Kurdistan at first and we were going, "Hey, let's do these outreaches. This has been in our heart to go to these places. Wherever God leads." Ukraine was coming at it pretty easy. We're like, "This is awesome." Everything was coming together. Churches were coming together. It was one of those, "Yeah, this is definitely the Lord's doing." Then, Kurdistan seemed like it was red flag after red flag. I'm getting all these papers and trying to get my government friends to get papers to say that the government of Kurdistan, "He's a legit person. It's okay." The KGB's looking at me and literally ...

    John:               This is serious stuff.

    Jeremy:           This is all serious. They were looking at YouTube videos and listening to my music and they were concerned. "Why does a Christian artist want to come over here?" I didn't really realize to the full extent that it was a Muslin country so I'm going, "Walking into this proclaiming Christ is not going to be well accepted." When we said we wanted to come over, there was a lot of question, "Why are you coming over?" What happened was it wasn't happening so I started feeling like there was some red flags, maybe we shouldn't go. That wasn't because I was afraid, but it was more like, "Wow. It didn't seem like it was coming together." My missionary friend who had been there for seven years, he emails me back and says ... I've been talking about going, "God, whatever you want, wherever you want me to go I will go." And I meant it from the bottom of my heart. He emails back and says, "Hey. If you don't feel like God wants you to come, that's fine, but just so you know, there's never been an outreach ever in Kurdistan. This is probably the last year that it'll happen because doors are closing very quickly." He said, "We need this. Churches are underground here. People are fearful in their faith."

    Here we are going, "Maybe we didn't really pray about this because my minister director's going, "If we started a non-profit called Speaking Louder Ministries to do these outreaches …" And he's going, "Should we do this? Because it seems dangerous." I go, "Listen, are you willing? Are you willing no matter what God has? We need to pray about this." So we prayed and God gave us, all of us, scriptures, instances where we go, "Yeah. This is definitely what we're supposed to do." We said, "We're going to go." I told my guys, I said, "Guys, here's the dangers: it's underground churches, persecutions, there's stuff going on. Are you willing? Because I don't know what's necessarily going to happen. This is trust in the Lord." I say all this and I'm going to share it tonight the more I think about it because I try to make sure that I'm not exploiting what I went through, "Look what I just did." Because that's not the point, but you're asking ... "Since you've been talking about being reckless. What's going on?" God said, "You want to do this?  You want to be completely surrendered and trust me in the mist of the hardest circumstances? Here you go." Not, "I'm going to teach you how to swim during this ... starting this new ministry that going to do that." I want to throw you in the water and say, 'All right. You're going to trust me.'" That's what it was. I was thrown in the water and said, "Okay God. I've got to look to you completely because I don't know what I'm doing."

    We get over there. Ukraine was amazing. We had 150 people plus come forward at the show and accept Christ in of Ukraine. It was amazing.

    John:               That's awesome.

    Jeremy:           We get to Kurdistan and I'm not going to get fully into it, but we had ...it wasn't well received. We had a cable news program; basically, spreading lies about us saying, "Don't come to the event." The main cable news program in Kurdistan saying, "Don't come." We were warned not to speak. I couldn't speak at the concert they said. They were like, "Jeremy can't speak." This is all the truth. It sounds like, "This really happened?" Even when I looked back, I was going, "This really happened?" I was there and I was in it. I was just in the warfare of it having to get on my knees, basically, and cry out to God. They said if we do something wrong, they were going to imprison one of the locals there for a year. Here we are, faced with reality, faced with like, "Okay God, we’re actually doing what you've laid on our hearts for a long time." I had to get to a point where I said, "Alrigh, God. My life's not my own. Called my wife weeping saying, "Okay. Here we are. What do we do?" It's so hard sharing this because I don't want it to be ... It's not ... I'm still processing it. I just got back a month and a half ago.

    John:               It's real. It's real life.

    Jeremy:           It's real what's happening and people being persecuted, people being afraid of sharing their faith. Their fear is gripping them, all that. I'm fine with the point where I'm weeping saying, "God, I can't do this." And he says, "Perfect, because you can't do it." We get there and hundreds of people left. Eight thousand people showed up, hundreds of people left when we said, "In the name of Jesus," because it was offensive. [inaudible 00:06:01] who were stumbling, in the name of Jesus is. To us, it's life. We saw that. Lyrics meant so much more to me than I can even ... I'm talking about not being ashamed of the Gospel. I'm going, "Oh, wow. We have lyrics on the screens huge in the stadium in their language so they can see what we're saying." It's not just hearing music. They know what we're saying. At the end, people came down to hear more about Jesus. The sad thing is, we got to leave and the missionary friends over there have a warning. If they speak at church anymore, then they'll be deported and they'll close the church down. That's what's happened from this. You know what they told me? The locals have all stepped up and they're on fire because people are wanting to do an event in the stadium, a worship event with the local people. Not an artist coming, but the local people saying, "Let's get together. Let's do this if we're going to really ... "

    I saw the affect of that and it was nothing I did. I was like, "I don't want to go." God goes, "You will go and be obedient." I was like, "Okay." Then, he just showed up and we said, "All right. This is not us, at all." We knew that. It wasn't anything we did. It was God leading and directing. That's what's happening. Speaking louder ministries is the next season of my life where we're ready to go and preach the Gospel. We're going to Japan next year. Going to the Philippines, going to Guatemala.

    John:               That's awesome.

    Jeremy:           That's what I feel like is the next step for us. Whatever it is, wherever he leads, I truly will go and lyrics mean a lot more than they used to because I realized I'd actually lived them out more than I ever have before.

    John:               How can we be praying for you and Addie and the kids? Especially in this next ... whatever this next season, year, whatever this is.

    Jeremy:           We need wisdom. We need wisdom because there's a lot of things we could be doing. Going, "Yeah. That sounds great. We're in a new season." We just need a lot of wisdom because we want to be ... I know it's the basic thing of Christians, "Always want to be in God's will." Honestly, stepping out into something like that, we don't want to be ahead of God's will. You know what I'm saying? It's a serious thing. When I realized the very words that I could have said could have affected the missionaries and the local people there in a heavy way, I realized that my very words and the very actions that I take, if I'm not led by the Lord, could be devastating. I want wisdom to be led by him in everything I do. That's where we're at and I don't really know what this next season looks like. I know what we're going towards, but we don't want to be on the side building our little kingdoms, I know that. That's very easy, especially in this industry. You know?

    John:               Mm-hmm. (affirmative)

    Jeremy:           Everyone had built their little kingdoms and where's the balance? I don't know. That's where we're going. Give us wisdom. I don't want to build my kingdom because that's going to crash and burn. We're here to build the kingdom of God and that's it. That's where we're at.


    This post was posted in Music, Interviews, Missions, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Missions, Jeremy Camp

  • Shane Harper on Living Out the Gospel

    Posted on February 20, 2014 by John van der Veen



    Shane Harper established himself as an artist with a quadruple threat—singer, actor, dancer, and songwriter. He began working as a professional dancer in the entertainment industry when he was just 13, appearing as a principal dancer in High School Musical 2, and in Nickelodeon's show, "Dance on Sunset".

    Shane transitioned easily into acting, and is recurring on the hit Disney Channel show, "Good Luck Charlie", for all 4 seasons. He guest starred on "Wizards of Waverly Place", and "So Random". He also guest starred in a 4 episode arc for the scripted MTV series, "Awkward."

    As an actor in film, Shane worked with Rob Reiner, in a supporting role for the movie, FLIPPED. He also had a small featured role in the Bollywood film, MY NAME IS KHAN.

    Shane has a principal role in the feature film, GOD'S NOT DEAD and recently, I sat down with him to talk about faith, Hollywood, books music and coffee.

    John:               Thank you, Shane, for chatting with me today. I do appreciate it.

    Shane:            Thank you. Yeah.

    John:               I've got a few questions that I want to ask you and the first one, Shane, is extremely important, and I know a lot of people are actually very anxious trying to figure out exactly what you do because that may influence them. The question is, are you a coffee drinker or are you a Red Bull drinker?

    Shane:            Oh man, coffee, ten times out of ten. Always.

    John:               Is it like frou-frou coffee for you?

    Shane:            No. I love coffee. I love the art of making coffee. I am a coffee nut. Everything from pour over coffee to French press coffee to the whole thing. I just love it. I love buying coffee beans from different places and trying them out. It's kind of a process as well. It's a little bit therapeutic in a way, and I also am officially addicted as well. I can have 3, 4 cups of coffee in a day, and I don't really feel it which makes me kind of nervous and kid of excited and proud at the same time. I have reached ... there's that level of coffee love.

    John:               Yeah. You have become your own barista is what I hear you saying.

    Shane:            Exactly. Yes. I'm usually a latte guy unless I'm feeling in a real cappuccino mood. Generally, a good latte will really just make me smile. Generally.

    John:               Yeah. Very good. Because you answered that way I feel like I'm more of a friend to you now. I love coffee as well.

    Shane:            Yeah. It's great.

    John:               Shane I'm wondering maybe if we can transition into something that is a little bit more serious. I'm wondering would you share a little bit about how you came to the realization that Jesus is real and how you started to follow him?

    Shane:            Yeah. Absolutely. I grew up in church my entire life. Not just grew up, really was heavily involved in my youth group. I wasn't just a Sunday church guy. We were the mid-week church family, too.

    John:               You were all in.

    Shane:            We were all in. Yeah. I think there was always a genuine love for Jesus there. I really felt like I knew God from a young age. I don't think much it is was really phony or fake or like I was pretending, but I didn't realize the weight of what Jesus did for me or what the implications of Gospel centered Christianity meant until I was in my early teens.

    When you get a certain age you start asking questions, and you start saying, "Well, why do we do this and what's the purpose of that, and where did we get the Bible." Just one day I came, "Where did the Bible come from?" We're reading this as an authoritative book. We're living our lives for this book. Where did we get it?

    You grow up in the church community, and you almost kind of just take it as it comes because you're like, "Well, of course this is how it is, and this is how we do things, because we're Christians, and we go to this church."

    I think that honestly through a lot of different circumstances and also the beginning of my involvement in the entertainment industry, I started asking different questions. It was the beginning of, "Okay, well, what does my faith look like, and how do I talk to people about it, and what does it mean for me?"

    It just became a lot deeper and more settled in my soul. I was restless but kind of settled at the same time. I don't know how to describe it. Through a lot of really great Bible teaching by guys like Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll that the Gospel began to sink in more deeply. I remember sitting in my parents' room, and we were listening to a sermon by Mark Driscoll. He started to expand on Martin Luther’s “The Great Exchange.” Where Jesus gives free grace to you, and it's yours.

    You didn't do anything to earn it, and I remember at that moment thinking to myself this is so much more real and life changing than I could have ever even realized. Obviously it's along process of going through these walks and these seasons, but I do remember that well and just being like, "Wow. I haven't heard it like that," or I hadn't felt Jesus pressing on my heart like that saying, "Do you realize the weight of this, not only for your life, but in the life of your community, because you live in light of that."

    Tim Keller always talks about these floors in your soul. Where truth embraced or realized sinks lower. There's always another floor, and this elevator just drops lower and lower and it happens throughout your whole like and for me, it just started to plummet. It just dropped. I was like, "Wow." It’s really a wonderful thing to talk about because it brings a lot of joy to me to talk about.

    John:               I think, Shane, you bring up an incredible point here, and I want to expand on it. When you and your family were listening to a Driscoll sermon about Martin Luther talking about the Great Exchange. The truth is Christ on the Cross literally taking away the sins of the world, our sins, and putting them upon himself, and then taking his own righteousness and literally, like a robe going around us, giving us his righteousness, and so we have that Great Exchange between the two. That's so amazing to wrap your mind around and yet that's where we're supposed to be living every day.

    Shane:            Exactly.

    John:               My next question just kind of goes right along with that. Now your job is very different than a lot of other people's. You work within an industry that a lot of time goes is very contrary to that type of thought or ideal. What is it like being a Christian within Hollywood, and how do you live out your faith in that context?

    Shane:            It's a really good question. I immediately think of when I hear the question, "What's it like being a Christian in Hollywood?" I immediately think, "Well, being a Christian anywhere in the world more or less means the same thing from a heart perspective of how you're supposed to serve and love your community." Right? The culture that God puts you in, and we know to love Jesus first, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to live in a posture of service to those around us.

    That's what it means literally to be a Christian in any culture and any community it just literally means to share the heart of Jesus with people and have that posture that Jesus had. He's washing his disciples feet. The King is washing the feet. That kind of picture he paints for us in terms of how to live lives that are really emulating the heart of Jesus is so powerful. I think in terms of ... honestly the human heart has inclinations that are honestly kind of universal. C. S. Lewis would attest to that.

    There's kind of this universal thing that everyone's trying to get at, and a lot of times we try to find it within ourselves, some kind of thing we can do ... Or we try to find it outside, something that we can serve, something we can dedicate our lives to. Sometimes when you're working on a set or something, it's like, "Can you grab me a _____? Can you do this for me? Can you do that for me? Well, I need this, and I need that."

    Sometimes people naturally go into service mode. You're an actor on this set. How can we service you? It’s not right. That's so contrary to how you're supposed to live with someone saying, "Well, what can I do for you? How can I make your day easier?" That's awesome that there's people that want to do that. It's not like being on Hollywood set's this fanciful thing where people bring you lattes and doing your pampering you because that's honestly a lot of times it's not like that.

    John:               Really? (Asks with a smile).

    Shane:            It depends. God has called them to do their work well, and to serve well within that job, and within that community and culture, but for me, when I show up to a set to work, what my relationship with Jesus does for me, it tells me this is not just a job. This is not just a moment to be the most paid attention to person in the room or on the set.

    It's not an opportunity to indulge in that kind of natural narcissism that my heart wants to grab onto. I need to be saying “what can I do for those people on that set?” Those are people that you're there to serve. That's the idea. You're on a set, and your coworkers and the writers and lighting and props and the directors, the producers, the DPs, everyone involved is ... That's the community that you're called to serve on that day. Honestly it's funny because talking about it, it makes it sounds like I show up to these sets in all of my serving glory, and I just have this great mindset like, "Oh, I totally got it down in life. This is what I'm doing for the people that I work with."

    Honestly just being completely upfront, I forget about it constantly. Weeks will go by. Months can go by, and I'm like, "What am I doing? What does my job mean? What does my job mean today?" God's called me to do this, and to do my job really well, but how has he called me to treat the people around me. I think the Gospel always challenges your values and challenges what you believe to be the most important thing. That's what I mean by like ... People are always like, "Well, Hollywood. It must be so hard."

    It's like, it's hard everywhere. To live in a way ... I can't displace myself. Everyone in the world living in their communities and their cultures has a call to live a life of service. It's the same everywhere. To have a heart of Christ is the same everywhere. People are honestly the same everywhere. There's this innate human desire everywhere to find meaning and value in things, and as Christians our meaning and value is rooted and grounded in Jesus and what he's done for us.

    I think the call to live a Gospel centered life as Christians is really honestly the same everywhere. Hollywood and the Greater Los Angeles area, because I live in Los Angeles, and Hollywood is just a small part of it. This is my community and culture. I'm a part of this. These are my people. These are the people that I love. I go to a local church that longs to serve the community and be ... the church. I feel blessed to be a part of this.

    I think generally when people are ... Wherever people are living and doing their work, wherever God's called them, I think that's kind of a sense that we need to have in terms of where you've been placed. I don't know. I know that I'm really grateful to be here, and I never really thought I'd be living in LA, and being a part of this community. The diversity of culture in Los Angeles is really amazing. Honestly there's like a million different pockets of communities and cultures, and it's such a wonderful opportunity, I think and such an amazing place to grow.

    From the set of Disney's 'Good Luck Charlie'

    John:               In fact, as you were talking about the various pockets in LA, I do remember I went out there one time with some friends of mine that are in a Christian Reggae band, and they took me to Little Ethiopia. I don't even know if that's a real place or not, but we went to this Ethiopian restaurant. It was absolutely amazing. It was another community within this much larger community of what's going on there.

    I totally get it. I resonate with it. I think your answer is very true as far as what does it mean to be a Christian in Hollywood. It's loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.

    Shane:            Yeah. That would have been a simpler. It's just loving God and being infatuated with who He is and what He's done for you and really wanting to serve your community in a really honest way. Not like serve your community where everyone's watching you.

    Serve your community where it really means something to you to emulate the heart of Jesus which is ... I think that's life changing. I think it can be.

    John:               Real quick question. Yes or no answer. Are you sad that Good Luck Charlie is going off the air? I want a yes or no.

    Shane:            Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. We did 4 years, 4 seasons of work, a hundred episodes, and it didn't feel like it was supposed to be over when we finished up. I think it's almost like it wasn't supposed to end, but everyone's still kind of really, obviously proud of the work and really happy to have been a part of it. Honestly, I think the environment was so uplifting and wonderful to be a part of. I think that hopefully people will continue to enjoy it for a long time.

    Hopefully they can rerun it for a long time. It's not the last time it will ever air on TV, but having the last episode air, and having no new episodes come out feels strange. It does. It feels weird. Yeah. I'm sad it's over. It was really fun.

    John:               All right. You are stepping into a new category of work. You are participating in a motion picture film called God's Not Dead. It is, I guess, a fair statement would say this is a pro-Christian film, and you play a believer in the film as well. What is it like playing something that there's certainly a heart resonating there between whom Shane Harper is and who the character is in God's Not Dead. Has this been a good transition for you?

    Shane:            Yeah. It was really enjoyable. It was fun. It was challenging. I think with characters, as an actor, you step into this character, and you kind of zip it up, and put it on. When you're on set, you're that person certainly in the scene. It's cool because when you ... As an actor when I'm playing a character, there's always what will interest me in a project will be either me resonating with the story line, or me resonating with the character specifically. Sometimes it's a little bit of both.

    In this case, there is this thing involved in it and it happens to be something really kind of personal because it's faith. It's a faith-based movie. I've had a ton of them come down the pike and when I got the breakdown, I thought, "Well, this seems interesting. I'll check it out." It was exciting to me to see the orientation of the film being kind of driven by this character Josh Wheaton being challenged by his professor, his bossy professor, and him having to work out his faith and what it means to him and how it operates in his mind.

    He knows how it works in his heart, but the character has to pull out some apologetics and try and work his way through this. I think that seems really interesting to me, and so it's why I honestly went out for it. I didn't just do it because, "Oh, this is a faith based movie, and I just want to ... This will be cool to be in a movie like this because I'm a Christian you know, or whatever." It's specifically the story line, and the kind of character it was kind of drew me to it. I've always been interested in that since I was a young teenager.

    I've always been interested in apologetics. C. S. Lewis has always been a huge influence on me ever since I was young. I grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia. The Great Divorce was the first grown-up book I picked up from Lewis when I was 13 or 14. Books like the Great Divorce and The Problem of Pain and The Weight of Glory and these kinds of things really started to shape how I viewed my faith in life and in practice.

    It was something I naturally resonate with. It was fun. It was a lot to do. Have you seen a preview of the movie?

    John:               I have. Yeah.

    Shane:            There's these big scenes that Josh has, the character that I play. He kind of does these presentations for his class, these 3 big ones, and I had to memorize all that material, and it was a couple dozen pages of material that I had to memorize. It was all monologue. That was probably the most challenging part about the whole movie was doing those 3 scenes back to back to back 3 days in a row. The first things we ever shot in the movie. It was really rough. It was fun, but it was hard. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

    John:               That's very cool. Any other ... Did you get it first time, every single time, or were there a couple times where you just messed up?

    Shane:            No, no way. I needed that first huge mess up to make me relax, to calm the nerves. I somehow thought I was going to fly in there and be like superman or something and just do it perfectly every single shot fir 17 hours a day, 3 days in a row, and it was nice. That second of third run totally screwing up the cut. All right. Let's start over. Let's do pickup. It got the nerves out. It was dense with information. It's a college setting. The scene is that he is trying to give arguments for the validity of the existence of God.

    It was a lot to work through in my brain. I actually even made notes as my character to actually give me a little bit of help giving the presentation because I was like, in real life, if you're giving a college presentation that's 9 pages long, you're going to have notes as the character. I was up there journaling information and notes and stuff. It was fun. I had to kind of get creative with it, but-

    John:               Good for you. All right. We're going to change gears. What about music? You are a multi-talented individual. On the soundtrack to God's Not Dead, you do have a song. Do you see yourself coming out with a full length album sometime?

    Shane:            Yeah. Absolutely. One of my huge passions is music. I grew up playing music. I'm currently working on a record on a full-length record. That's kind of obviously a huge goal of mine to get it out and release as soon as I can. Getting to do a song for the movie, for the film, God's Not Dead was really cool. I'd love to continue doing that. It's fun being a part of the film, and then them coming to you after, in post production saying, "Hey, can you do a song for the movie? Because we know you write music."

    It's kind of a cool thing to be able to do. It's an interesting story behind the song because I actually written the chorus of Holds You Up probably 2 months before I ever auditioned for God's Not Dead. Then when they came to me to write a song for it, they said, "Hey, do you have a song that kind of goes with the flow and the vibe of this storyline, the narrative?" I said, "I don't." "Can you write one?" I was like, "Yeah. I guess I can write one."

    Then a couple days later I remember, "Oh my gosh. Half of it's already written. I wrote this song that's perfect. I just need to go finish it." We finished it, and it ended up working great for the movie. It's kind of a cool story of it working out.

    John:               That's awesome. Shane. Man, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate it.

    Shane:            Thank you so much. It's been really fun. I enjoyed it. We should do this more often.

    John:               We should.

    Check out the "behind the scenes" videos with Shane on the set of God's Not Dead


    This post was posted in Music, Movies, Interviews, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Mark Driscoll, C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, God's Not Dead, Shane Harper

  • Top Albums of 2013

    Posted on February 19, 2014 by John van der Veen

    John van der Veen

    Ok. You are right. I am a little late in getting our "Top Albums of 2013" out for you all. Believe me, I know. I mean, being so far into the month of February already, it seems that 2013 is so far ago. I hope that my lapse in time doesn't allow you to miss the value of each one of these albums.

    So here they are. The top albums of 2013. Chosen from you, our followers.

    How Great is Our God: The Essential Collection

    As one of the most-sung artists in the church, Chris Tomlin writes music that connects people to the heart of Jesus and leads them to a greater worship of him. After six studio albums and numerous appearances on Passion live worship albums, Chris released his first-ever greatest hits collection, How Great Is Our God: The Essential Collection, featuring three all-new recordings of classic Tomlin worship songs. Included is a new recording of "How Great Is Our God," which features guest appearances from renowned international worship leaders, singing parts of the song in their native language.

    Top 25 Praise Songs: 2014 Edition

    Renew your spirit with this collection of the Top 25 Praise Songs: 2014 Edition! Featuring twenty-five of the most refreshing worship songs made popular by today's best selling artists, this 2-CD compilation is a must-have for fans of praise and worship music.

    A sampling of the songs include: 10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord),  Our God, Forever Reign, - Glory To God Forever, Your Love Never Fails, Jesus Messiah, How He Loves, Hosanna and Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).

    Come To The Well

    Come To The Well is an appeal to Christians to let the "living water" of Christ well up in them, overflowing into the relationships we have around us, both inside the church and beyond.

    Inspired by the story of Jesus talking to the woman at the well, the title track, "The Well," illuminates that main theme. With no-fluff lyrics and a genuine heart of worship, Casting Crowns sings truth about the Christian life journey, rewarding their listeners with a musically progressive sound that has widespread appeal.

    WOW Hits 2014

    Only one record a year brings you the biggest Christian artists and songs! Featuring your favorite artists and their best songs of the year, WOW Hits 2014 captures the songs that are impacting our world. With songs about finding strength, placing your hope in Jesus and the promise of everlasting life, WOW Hits 2014 is filled with 30 uplifting songs from top artists, as well as three bonus tracks from up-and-coming artists.

    Also available is the deluxe version that contains features six additional songs.

    Burning Lights

    Is it fair that Chris Tomlin have two albums listed on our Top Albums of 2013? Only if they are good enough. And yes, Burning Lights is just that.

    One of the most storied worship leaders of our time, Chris Tomlin returns with his latest album, Burning Lights. As the songwriter behind the worship favorites "How Great Is Our God," "Jesus Messiah," "Holy is the Lord" and "Forever," Chris continues to write songs that connect people to the heart of Jesus and lead them to a greater worship of Him.

    Burning Lights features the single "Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)" and an all-new recording of the radio hit "White Flag."

    Miracle

    Third Day spent a generous part of 2012 immersed in the recording of its studio album, Miracle. The album, Third Day's 17th career offering, was recorded within the walls of the band's own state-of-the art studio, The Quarry, in Atlanta, GA, with the help of veteran rock producer Brendan O'Brien.

    From the opening track, "Hit Me Like A Bomb," it is clear that Third Day means business when they say they want to bring something new to the table. Musically, there are sounds that have never been on a Third Day album, including layered guitars, layered harmonies and sing-a-long gang vocals. Music styles range from pulsating rock to acoustic pop-rock, yet the classic Third Day sound everyone loves is still there - but refreshed and rejuvenated.

    The Hurt & The Healer

    The Texas-based band does so yet again on their seventh studio album, The Hurt & the Healer, a compelling collection of songs that rock with the authority of a seasoned band, yet also insinuate themselves into the souls of listeners through insightful, heartfelt lyrics. “We’ve been doing this for 17 years,” Bart Millard says of the group. “You still need a fresh perspective. You still need to have these moments where you are like, ‘Oh I totally get it. I see something new.’ That is what this album has been for us.”

    The Hurt & The Healer is a celebration of the moment when these two worlds collide - the deep need for healing and the God Who provides it. Produced by Brown Bannister and Dan Muckula, The Hurt & The Healer features signature MercyMe anthems, engaging pop songs and worshipful and intimate moments.

    10,000 Reasons

    As the writer of many popular worship songs including "Blessed Be Your Name," "The Heart of Worship," "You Never Let Go" and "Better is One Day," Matt Redman’s songs are sung by millions of people every Sunday. He has a unique ability to craft songs that teach deeply spiritual truths and remind us of God’s steadfastness, which he displays again on 10,000 Reasons. The album features 11 all-new songs and was recorded live.

    The first single, "Never Once" speaks of God’s faithfulness in our lives as he is always with us, and never abandons us. Inspiring and hopeful, this album will resonate with fans of worship music everywhere.

    The Struggle

    After two highly acclaimed albums, Tenth Avenue North takes a bold creative leap forward on its new album, The Struggle. Inviting fans all over the country to lend their voices to the process as they recorded this album in cities along its tour route, the songs explore themes of forgiveness, redemption and grace.

    "We really fostered the dance of both the music and they lyric while thematically unpacking the idea of what it means to struggle," says lead vocalist Mike Donehey. "We are free to struggle, but don't need to struggle to be free. It's about the permission to struggle but also a challenge not to stay there." With The Struggle the band offers up lyrically substantive songs people have come to expect from Tenth Avenue North.

    Overcomer

    Coming up her most successful album ever, American Idol alum and three-time Grammy nominee Mandisa returns with Overcomer. Produced by Christopher Stevens and David Garcia, Overcomer showcases her powerful vocals and pop-leaning hooks that blend effortlessly through all 11 tracks.

    With caution-to-the-wind melodies weaved throughout the record, anchored by emotional songs like her open letter to her brother in "Dear John," Overcomer may be Mandisa’s most impactful release to date.

    So there you have it. The 2013 Top Albums. What do you think? Do agree with the list? Would you add any titles to it? What is your top albums of this past year?


    This post was posted in Music, John van der Veen and was tagged with Featured, Tenth Ave. North, Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Third Day, Matt Redman, Casting Crowns, Mandisa

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